Manchester City 3 Manchester United 1
The hardest thing for Manchester United supporters to take on Sunday might not have actually been the game itself but the fact that its outcome didn’t really come as any sort of surprise. And that was even after a dramatic late win in Turin four days previous, which many thought would give them a huge boost going into Sunday’s derby, yet it perhaps instead served to do the opposite as United laboured to a comfortable defeat, if there is such a thing. As you feel that their bitter rivals City, who now look like owning bragging rights in the city of Manchester for a good while, could have stepped on the gas at almost any point to secure the three points that took them two points clear at the top of the table.
City’s victory wasn’t quite a Sunday stroll in an extremely expensive and well kept park but they didn’t have to perform anywhere near their scintillating best to put themselves back in front of potential title rivals Liverpool. They were already well on top by the time David Silva fired in from close range after twelve minutes and should perhaps have been at least two to the good by the half time break. As United, missing an injured Paul Pogba dearly, in an attacking sense couldn’t really string together anything meaningful with an stoic midfield three of Matic, Herrera and Felliani far too busy trying to protect a still vulnerable back four rather than providing service for United’s youthful attack. Mourinho’s side once again didn’t really show up in the first portion of the game, something that he must surely address swiftly if he is to keep his job beyond next summer.
Such is the the divide between the two teams at present that Mourinho was probably relatively pleased his team were still in the contest after forty five minutes while Pep Guardiola’s mind was no doubt flashing back to this same fixture last season where City’s sloppiness in front of goal laid the foundation for a remarkable United comeback. Yet just one minute after the restart, Sergio Aguero, sporting a let’s say daring new haircut, fired an angled shot straight through David De Gea’s hands. And just like that, City earned themselves the two goal advantage their performance had merited. This forced Jose Mourinho to replace a quiet Jesse Lingard with the currently out-of-favour Romelu Lukaku and within a minute United were somehow back in with a shout of a point. As City’s keeper Ederson, faultless for much of the session, inexplicably decided to race off his line and bring down Lukaku in the area with the Belgium striker running well away from goal. Anthony Martial coolly slotted home the resulting penalty for his sixth goal in five league games and just like that the red half of Manchester were gift-wrapped a way back into proceedings.
Yet United, who managed just one shot on target in the whole game, never really looked like taking anything back with them to Old Trafford as instead Raheem Sterling was wasteful in front of goal before Ilkay Gundogan deservedly restored City’s two goal cushion with five or so minutes to go after a sublime forty-four pass move from Pep’s all stars. Meaning that Manchester United’s otherwise productive week ended on an distinctly sour note as their neighbours continued to showcase their utter dominance on the football pitch. The chasm between the two sides illustrated best by the twelve points separating them in the league table in as many games.
For City, despite this supposedly being one of the sterner tests of the league season, it really was just business as usual. Even though they were not anywhere near fluent best they were still full of attacking threat and verve throughout the game. The fabulously gung ho nature of football they play often overshadows a now defined defensive stability that has lead to them conceding just five goals so far this term. With John Stones and Aymeric Laporte forming a centre back partnership good enough to keep Vincent Kompany and Nicloas Otamendi out of the first eleven. With City somehow still going from strength to strength in all areas of the pitch it looks like only an unfathomably consistent season from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool will deny them their second league title on the bounce.
As for United, you could argue that this kind of lacklustre performance was to be expected after their last gasp efforts versus Bournemouth and Juventus in the two games previous. A reality no doubt worsened by the fact that they were missing the thrust and energy that Paul Pogba provides from the middle of the park. So clearly there were mitigating circumstances surrounding another uninspiring performance from Mourinho’s men. Yet, others may assert that such a performance in what is one of the biggest games of the club’s season, is simply unacceptable even when factoring in the various problems that the club is currently trying to cope with. There is a sustained effort apparent being asserted by both Mourinho and his team to improve the club’s form yet in truth if the three sides they faced in their past three fixtures were more clinical in front of goal, United’s on the whole decent week could have easily been another awful one.
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