If the bookies have it right – and they usually do – the individual player of the year honours will be bestowed upon Manchester United star Bruno Fernandes in May.

Manchester City are odds-on to win the Premier League, are almost in the Champions League quarter-finals, are in the FA Cup quarter-finals and the Carabao Cup final.

But Ilkay Gundogan is second favourite, Ruben Dias third favourite and Kevin De Bruyne fifth favourite to be named the best player in the country at the end of the season.

This is nothing new to City.

In 2018 they won the league by a country mile, no-one coming close, but Mo Salah was the PFA’s player of the year.

The following season the Blues were incredible in holding off Liverpool’s strong challenge, and also winning the two domestic cups – but Virgil Van Dijk was deemed to be the best player in the league.

Of course, there is an argument that the best individual does not necessarily play for the dominant team – and that was proved last year when Liverpool won the league with ease, but Kevin De Bruyne was named best player by the PFA.

But the last three seasons have broken what had become a trend. City remain the only club who have never had a player given the individual awards in a season when they won the league.

N’Golo Kante won it when Chelsea won the title in 2017, Riyad Mahrez won it when Leicester reigned supreme in 2016 and Eden Hazard scooped the honour when Chelsea were champs in 2015.

The year before, Manuel Pellegrini’s City were undoubtedly the best team – and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez was deemed the best player.

It seems that to win the Player of the Year honour, you have to be the outstanding player in your team, but not necessarily in the league – and that goes for De Bruyne, too, as he was head and shoulders above his City teammates last season.

Ilkay Gundogan celebrates scoring for Manchester City

This season, De Bruyne’s teammates have hauled themselves up to his level, and Dias, Gundogan, and John Stones have all operated at that elite level. Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva are joining that party, too.

But with so many players functioning at world-class level, City are likely to win the league but split the votes of those who seek to recognise their individual contributions.

At United, a certain Portugal midfielder has stood out to an extent that Pep Guardiola might be justified if he described them as the “Bruno Fernandes team”.

Anyone of a mind to vote for someone other than a City player this season, has to be looking at Fernandes or possibly Jack Grealish, another shining light in a squad of ordinariness.

But neither Fernandes, nor Grealish, would get into Guardiola’s strongest team.

Defining Guardiola’s strongest team is a tough thing to do, as he has no parameters and would suggest it depends, at any given moment, on the opposition, the situation, the form and a dozen other factors.

But if City had everyone fully fit and at the top of their game and were playing Bayern Munich in the Champions League final, the first-choice XI would be reasonably easy to pick.

If Fernandes wore the sky blue rather than United red, he would not be in that team.

That is not to say he is not a good footballer – he is exceptional, and his impact on United has been immense. In fact, the Reds would certainly be much more than ten points adrift of their neighbours had he not been in such great nick.

The fact that he would not make the starting team – and would even have a fight to make the bench – is not a reflection of his excellence, but rather a testimony to just how good City have been.

Fernandes makes things happen for United, and he has more goal involvements – goals plus assists – than anyone else in the Premier League, a stat that speaks for itself.

But his direct competition at City would be De Bruyne, who has been performing at a higher level for five seasons now.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 21: Ruben Dias of Manchester City battles for possession with Pierre Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on February 21, 2021 in London, England. Sporting stadiums around the UK remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Manchester City FC/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)
Ruben Dias has impressed greatly in his first season with Manchester City

The Belgian has fallen out of the limelight recently due to injury, and the fact that the team has cruised on without him. But even in a season when he has not been at full tilt – only scoring four goals so far – his stats still stand up to those of Fernandes.

Fernandes has effectively played seven more full games than De Bruyne, but both men have ten assists. Fernandes has 15 goals, padded out by seven penalties, to De Bruyne’s unusually low three.

In terms of playmaking, De Bruyne has had the best stats in the league for three of the last four full seasons – and the one in which he didn’t top the chart was when he was sidelined by knee problems.

De Bruyne’s hamstring injury this season interrupted his flow, but the way Gundogan, Bernardo and Cancelo have stepped into the considerable gap left by his absence speaks volumes.

The upshot is that, over the course of recent seasons, De Bruyne has been better – he has averaged more assists, and more chances created, and his contributions have brought trophies

All of those three should be in the reckoning, but therein lies City’s greatest advantage when it comes to winning trophies – and their players’ greatest disadvantage when it comes to collecting individual honours.

City’s own player of the year award is a real conundrum, with four or five candidates in the running.

United could hand out their club player of the year bauble right now.

But if we take the Van Dijk rationale, there is only one real candidate from City, when it comes to the PFA award.

Just like Liverpool in 2017-18, City were a fine attacking outfit but flaky at the back, until the 23-year-old Portuguese star arrived.

In Van Dijk’s first full season, the “goals against” column in the league table fell from 38 to 22, and thy went from a fourth-paced finish to a close second to City.

The addition of Dias has sparked an equivalent improvement, from 35 goals conceded to 15 so far this season – the crucial difference being that, if the bookies are right on this score as well, the Blues’ improvement will take them to the league title.