Defying expectations in a different way

Even after a disappointing season last time out, Manchester City are still favourites with most for just about every competition going.

When the team was announced on Monday at 7.15pm to reveal seven injured players, on the back of a month of frustrations in the transfer market and Liverpool's 2-0 win over Chelsea, it felt increasingly difficult to justify.

Yet with their backs to the wall and their lungs nearly coming out of their chests, Pep Guardiola's side came up with an outstanding performance to start the campaign in the best possible way. Where last season they came up with innumerable new ways to mess up, here they barely even gave a hint of the considerable handicaps they had to overcome.

The sight of John Stones starting and Nicolas Otamendi on the bench means they will still in all likelihood have to strengthen before the transfer window is out, with Kalidou Koulibaly and Jules Kounde two very different options identified.

However, unlike Chelsea and United, this performance and victory means that any signings can come from a confident position rather than a reaction to alarming defeats.

De Bruyne on penalties

One issue that should trouble City less this season is penalties.

It can be morale-sapping to win a spot-kick and then waste the opportunity to influence the game with it but that was what happened too often last season with too many players.

Here, a fine start was solidified by an unstoppable penalty as Kevin De Bruyne stepped up and smashed home.

If ever there is doubt among the team, giving the ball to their Belgian star seems an excellent option to calm any nerves.

Youngsters on bench hint at future? 

The three youngsters on the bench - Adrian Bernabe, Tommy Doyle and, for the first time, Liam Delap - found themselves there as a result of seven first team players being injured or absent. Normally, that space will not be there.

However, this past year has forced everyone to redefine what normal is and with games coming thick and fast - Bournemouth and Leicester visit the Etihad next - there is perhaps more chance for rotation than usual across the season.

Fernandinho shows his timeless class

Fernandinho turned 35 in May. Watching him run himself into the ground against Wolves, you understood why he feels he has many years left to give at the top level.

When the Brazilian moved back into midfield after lockdown he looked rusty and sluggish, and much more assured when he returned to centre-back.

Operating alongside Rodri though ahead of Stones and new signing Nathan Ake, it was a vintage performance that mixed patrolling defensive work with occasional forays forward when the space allowed for it.

Being made club captain ahead of De Bruyne was perhaps a sign that City still feel he can play a major part this season and this midfield showing highlighted the versatility that he continues to have.