Manchester City took a big step towards a Wembley return by securing a 3-1 victory at Old Trafford in Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final first-leg.
Bernardo Silva brilliantly opened the scoring before turning provider for Riyad Mahrez, who scored into an empty net after rounding David de Gea. An own goal from Andreas Pereira was no less than Manchester City deserved after a blistering counter-attack, who went into the break 3-0 up. The second half saw a lackadaisical City allow Marcus Rashford to pull one back for United, but Solskjaer’s side failed to capitalise on a slightly more even dynamic, leaving City with a 3-1 advantage going into the second leg.
Here are five take-home points that we learned watching this thrilling encounter…
There’s still magic in Bernardo’s boots
One point of concern for Manchester City fans in recent weeks has been the dip in form of Bernardo Silva. The image conjured up by the Portuguese in my head over last two seasons has been him skipping through defences, hopping to the left, right, then left again as he leaves a trail of incensed defenders in his wake. This campaign, however, has seen him become a little more pedestrian, losing the ball more often and failing to have the same impact on the game.
But on Tuesday night, Old Trafford watched him dazzle brighter than the floodlights at the Stretford End, and author two moments of sheer quality to put the Blues two goals ahead. His threaded through ball to Riyad Mahrez was near-perfect, albeit in the face of a defence that was all at sea, and just before that, he opened the scoring with a truly fantastic strike that set the tone for a clinic in excellence!
Raheem Sterling refuses to score against Manchester United
For all his goalscoring adroitness, Raheem Sterling seems hellbent on maintaining his duck against our biggest rivals. He carved out several good chances for himself to add to the scoring but failed to capitalise and add even more insult to Manchester United’s injuries sustained over the first 45 minutes.
Overall, tonight’s game certainly wasn’t one of Sterling’s best in a Manchester City shirt. The team, on the whole, were superb, but the young Englishman failed to match the heights of his companions across Guardiola’s front line.
We NEED Fernandinho for another year
A man who has surely cemented his place among the likes of Sergio Aguero, David Silva, and Yaya Toure, Fernandinho is now one of our most important players. His steely backbone and just-enough-to-not-get-booked gamesmanship see us through so many important games.
This isn’t to say he isn’t more than capable enough on the ball to stand out even among Guardiola’s orchestra. But, while almost everyone in the Catalan boss’ side is proficient enough with the ball at their feet, few have the ability to drive up the team’s energy and control the opposition’s attacking force as Fernandinho does.
Otamendi remains a liability at times
One of the more nerve-inducing names that can appear on Manchester City’s teamsheet is Nicolás Otamendi. The Argentine frequently looks at sea when faced with an even slightly aggressive-looking opposition attack, as he did in the face of Marcus Rashford in the build-up to his goal.
I’d encourage everyone to remember his excellent season alongside John Stones when he, in part, managed the defence of the Centurions throughout the 17/18 season. But I, like many others, am acutely aware of his deficiencies and wouldn’t be too surprised to see him leave the club in the next year or so.
Phil Foden deserves more minutes in these games
Guardiola has answered the calls of many Manchester City fans asking for more minutes to be given to Phil Foden in recent weeks, but many will feel that the youngster could have been given more minutes against Manchester United.
Foden only made an appearance in the last five minutes of the game, while recent performances should realistically have merited him more game time, particularly considering Manchester United’s performance across the game.
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