A somewhat nervy Manchester derby ends with Manchester City once again picking up the win over Manchester United with a 0-2 victory away at Old Trafford.
There’s always talking points coming out of a match between these two sides, but let’s attempt to narrow it down from a winning perspective with Five Things We Learned…
Manchester is Blue
It always gets said after a team wins the derby. Filtered images of the city do the rounds on Instagram, but this time it really feels like it. That’s two wins City have over United this season, taking all six points in the league. It puts City back at the top of the table ahead of Liverpool by one point with just three games to go. Meanwhile, United stay slumped in sixth place, with it looking increasingly likely they’ll miss out on Champions League football next season. It’s maybe as big a disparity between the clubs that there’s been since the blues became the more superior side.
That said, it wasn’t a complete rout. Previous form went out the window and for the first fifteen minutes United were surprisingly the more immediate threat. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has his team lined up well, but as the game went on it became increasingly clear that they weren’t a match for City. Pep Guardiola’s side came out for the second half rejuvenated and determined, and were rewarded well for putting the effort in.
Manchester United’s scatter gun approach to investing in their club without any real long-term plan continues to show on the football pitch, with the ‘noisy neighbours’ taking over the town once again. Long may it continue.
Big games like this are where you need big players to step up their game and that’s exactly what David Silva did last night. Where other players around him looked rusty with their passing and possession at times, Silva was cool and collected. He brought composure to the midfield; particularly in the first half when his team needed it the most.
I think it’s fair to say El Mago hasn’t been casting his magic on every game he’s played in recent months, but as quick as he made his hair reappear; he brought his form back for his club. And he picked the perfect game to do it in.
No-one wants to find the negatives in a winning performance but it is worth mentioning that the blues’ defence aren’t infallible. City seemed vulnerable to the red devils’ counter-attacks throughout the game, with United looking to hoof the ball up to Rashford at every available opportunity. This type of tactic is always used against teams who play possession football, but there were moments where Kompany and Laporte lost their man, and were unsure of when to challenge for the ball. This was the case in recent matches against Tottenham as well. Long balls into space for Son to run on to were a constant threat to City’s back line and it’s the same trick United tried last night.
Yes City didn’t concede here, nor did they against Spurs last weekend, but it feels like something they need to address in the few remaining must-win matches. You can also attribute the recent clean sheets to the help of two world-class Brazilians, as I will in the point below.
There was a case for giving man of the match to a few players last night, and if he hadn’t have gone off in the 51st minute it could well have been Fernandinho. He was terrific in tracking back and covering defensively, proving to anyone who didn’t already know that he’s (one of) the best defensive midfielder(s) in the world. His last ditch clearance in the 27th minute to prevent Rashford from scoring at the back post saved City when the game was still 0-0. The Brazilian also shut down United’s possession expertly. It’s lucky for the blues that once he was substituted, Gundogan had a better game in the number 6 role. The German might be needed there until the end of the season as we wait to find out the extent of Fernandinho’s knee injury.
Ederson meanwhile made his claim for being considered in the Premier League team of the season, while the supposed best goalie in the world at the other end of the pitch floundered. The man in yellow had his goal covered for all desperation long range shots, and came out when he needed to – smothering a Rashford chance in the 18th minute preventing him from running in on goal. Having little to do for the majority of the season, he’s now showing everyone that he’s not just in the side for his distribution skills.
A Love Letter To Leroy
Sane is my favourite footballer and has been since scored his first goal for City in a comeback win against Arsenal in his first season. I’m sure most City fans are a little disappointed to see him demoted to the bench as the season closes out. His pace, composure, and shot accuracy have been vital to City wins in the last few years, and it was the same in this match.
With just a one goal lead and needing another to settle the game, when Sterling passed to Sane in space out on the left – there was only going to be one outcome. City hadn’t been clinical enough with their chances, so it was great to see the ball hit the back of the net as the substitute scored with his first shot on the pitch.
Bernardo and Sterling have been undoubtedly amazing this season, so it’s understandable they need to start, but they were below their usual high standards in parts yesterday. Sane came on looking fresh and offered something extra, linking up well with the attacking line after the Bernardo goal. All Leroy can do is take his chances when he gets them, as he did here, and I’m sure we’ll see more of last seasons PFA Young Player of the Year.
BONUS THING LEARNED: WHO DARMIAN IS
Genuinely didn’t have a clue.
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