Here, Press Association Sport looks at how City’s side match up to Sir Alex Ferguson’s legendary team.
Ederson has been one of the big improvements to City’s side this season. The 24-year-old Brazilian has settled seamlessly into Premier League life and has impressed with his all-round qualities. But Ederson still has a long way to go to be considered in the same class as Peter Schmeichel, one of the all-time greats.
If City do have a weakness against the very best, then it is probably at the back. They are much improved from last season, when they conceded 39 goals in the Premier League. Nicolas Otamendi and, in particular, John Stones have made big strides while Kyle Walker is a strong right-back. But Vincent Kompany’s fitness problems are long-standing while, as well as he has played, Fabian Delph is not a specialist left-back.
Gary Neville, Jaap Stam, Ronny Johnsen and Denis Irwin were the regular back four for United during their treble-winning season. While arguably not the strongest ever Ferguson defence, it was packed full of experience and featured possibly the best two full-backs in United’s history.
The two outstanding players for City this season – and there is stiff competition – have been David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne. Between them they have scored and directly assisted 27 goals, and been involved in many more. Speed of passing and movement is the hallmark of Guardiola’s teams and, with Fernandinho providing cover to the defence, it has been a formula other teams have been powerless to resist.
As good as City’s midfield is, the United midfield of David Beckham, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs was surely the greatest of the Premier League era and one of the greatest ever. United’s Champions League success came despite Keane and Scholes both missing the final through suspension.
City’s fluid line-up sees wide men Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling often the furthest men forwards and both have been outstanding this season. Sterling is the club’s leading scorer while Sane has provided as many assists as De Bruyne and Silva. Sergio Aguero has not been on top form but already has 13 goals while Gabriel Jesus is a support act of the highest class.
Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke were in their pomp in 1998/99 and scored more than 50 goals between them, forming one of the Premier League’s most potent partnerships. And just as crucially – especially in the Champions League final, of course – they had excellent back-up in Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The 25-year-old Arsenal midfielder has suffered a torrid time with injury over the past three years and spent last season out on loan at Bournemouth.
He returned to the Emirates Stadium in the summer and, having shone in his Europa League outings, Wilshere has now earned a place in Arsene Wenger‘s Premier League side.
Wilshere’s contract expires at the end of the season and he can talk to foreign clubs from his birthday on January 1.
— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) December 20, 2017
He has been insistent for some time that he wants to remain at Arsenal, with Wenger revealing recently that contract talks would begin at the end of December.
Wilshere has not been capped by England since the shock 2-1 defeat to Iceland at Euro 2016, with Southgate wanting his squad to consist of players who are regulars in the Premier League.
Now Wilshere has broken into Arsenal’s Premier League line-up, he feels he can push for a place on England’s plane to Russia.
“I think so,” he told Sky Sports News when asked if his recent performances can be a platform to a World Cup spot.
“I think I have proved to myself that I can play in the Premier League, I trust my body again and I am confident going into games that I can affect them.
“That is all I can do, I can have a positive affect on this team and then we will see if the England manager picks me.”
Wilshere again stressed his hopes of penning a new deal at Arsenal in the coming weeks, having come up through the ranks with the club.
“This is where I want to be, this is where I see myself in the future,” he said.
“Whether I will be and whether things sort themselves out then we will see in the next couple of weeks I suppose but I definitely want to be here.
“I am enjoying my football and am playing in the Premier League now and I want to help Arsenal get to where it should be.
“I’m concentrating on staying fit and staying in the team. That will look after itself and when it’s the right time, I’m sure the boss will pull me so we can have a chat.”
– Jack Wilshere pic.twitter.com/3NiIh4G6Fz
— ArsenalFanTV (@ArsenalFanTV) December 15, 2017
“I think the biggest thing for any footballer, even more so for me because of the injuries and the games I’ve missed in the past, is that you are playing.
“Apart from that, there are a few small things to sort out but as long as I am playing I am happy, I have missed too much football and I just want to be playing, really.
“I’m in a good place mentally at the minute, I want to continue that and improving on my form, affecting the team, having a positive impact on the team and helping the team try and get into the top four and challenge for trophies.”
With 12 points up for grabs for each club, the next 14 days could make or break a team’s European push or help them stay in the Premier League.
Press Association Sport analysed each club’s festive fixtures based on current league positions and Burnley have the toughest run of games, with their opponents having an average league position of sixth. By contrast, West Ham have the most favourable schedule, facing opponents ranked 15th on average.
Simple for City?
The bad news for those hoping Manchester City slip up is that the runaway leaders have the second easiest schedule on paper, just behind the Hammers with an average league position of 14.5 for their opponents. Tenth-placed Watford are the highest-ranked side standing in the way of Pep Guardiola‘s men.
Burnley, who have been the surprise package of the season so far, face home games against Tottenham and Liverpool and a trip to Manchester United – if they can stay in the top six through that run, hopes will rise that Turf Moor could be hosting European football next season.
Arsenal face Chelsea as well as Liverpool and, coupled with Burnley’s run, that could spell good news for Tottenham. Mauricio Pochettino’s side lie seventh but have the third most favourable schedule, with their opponents having an average league position of 13.25 – a trip to Burnley is the toughest game on paper for a team who took a maximum 12 points this time last year.
Problems mount for Swansea
At the bottom of the table, Swansea need to start picking up points before they find themselves falling further away from safety – but Paul Clement’s side have the fourth toughest schedule, facing teams with an average league position of 8.75.
A crunch game at home to Crystal Palace is followed by clashes with Liverpool, Watford and Tottenham. The Swans only managed to collect three points during the same period 12 months ago and a repeat haul will not make their chances of survival any easier, and could increase the pressure on Clement.
Alan Pardew has yet to taste victory as West Brom manager and will have to hope that changes over the next fortnight. The stand-out games for Pardew’s men are trips to Stoke and West Ham to start and end the festive fortnight.
Stoke, hovering one point and one place above the relegation zone, have not had much to cheer this season but the good news for Mark Hughes is their festive opponents have an average position of 12.75. They will no doubt target home games against West Brom and Newcastle – the two sides directly below them in the table – as games they simply have to win.
Brighton, who sit 13th, will see their festive fixtures – against opponents with an average league position of 11.75 – as an opportunity to pick up points, especially with Newcastle and Bournemouth both below them in the table.