Defending champions Man City were huge favorites going into the Manchester Derby at Old Trafford tonight in a crunch tie with their bitter rivals Manchester United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sides form has been in a free fall, and their fans desperately needed to see a reaction, following their 0-4 humiliation to Everton on Sunday.
More than bragging rights, Manchester City were looking to take the upper hand in the title race with Liverpool just not going away.
It was ultimately Pep Guardiola’s men who took the points and a massive stride towards regaining their title. Here’s a look at five things we learned from the action.
Early mobility and aggression from United as Ole gets his response
After a hideous display away at Everton, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was in dire need of a response from his men in such a huge game. For those expecting Manchester United to roll over, they were gravely mistaken as the home side came out with pace and intensity in an impressive opening 25 minutes.
Fred and Pereira may not have added real quality, but their extra movement and high tempo aided United’s pressing and left City a little ruffled and laboured. Pep Guardiola was animated on the touchline as he saw his side fail to grab, what has become a textbook early lead in the game. It was a good start by the home side as they got the fans onside for the occasion.
Zinchenko and Kompany asked real questions as Rashford shows menace
Much has been made of Marcus Rashford’s finishing over the past few weeks, reaching fever pitch in the aftermath of the Barcelona tie in the Champions League.
However, in the opening 45 minutes at Old Trafford, the forward showed what he can still bring to the table. His pace and direct running caused Zinchenko and Kompany a few issues in the first half, with both picking up cards as they struggled with him.
While he was denied any real guilt edge chances, he kept Man City wary of his threat and their back four looked unsettled as they tried to keep up with the England international’s pace.
Experience helps City turn the screw
That evergreen duo Fernandinho and David Silva have won so many games for City over the years, so it was no surprise then to see both selected for this one.
After City endured an uncomfortable opening to the match, they slowly began to get on top and control proceedings. It was their veterans at the heart of it all, doing so much good work between the lines and making United do a lot chasing. Silva worked the ball with the masterly intelligence and composure he was born with. As some of his teammates struggled with their final pass, he was there to pick it up and find players, helping to increase the tempo.
Fernandinho was equally vital, making several crucial blocks and interceptions. When the experienced Brazilian recovered possession he helped spring City’s lethal movement and build up play in the final third, before injury ended his night early in the second half.
De Gea errors help City’s cause
City deserve immense credit for the way in which they took this game away from United. They remained calm and worked the ball dangerously across the final third, shuffling their opponents around at will and creating spaces all over the pitch.
However, you cannot discount the helping hand they got from David De Gea with both of their goals. In days gone by, the Spanish keeper was a match-winner in a game of this magnitude. Not tonight. Beaten at his near post for Bernardo Silva’s opener, he subsequently allowed Leroy sane’s direct shot to squirm past him for the second.
He was visibly fuming afterward, having effectively surrendered the points on the night. The keeper could rightly have expected more from his colleagues with both goals, but United fans should rightly be asking questions of their number one on tonight’s evidence.
United’s lack of creativity brutally exposed by City
United put a shift in here, which is a whole lot more than you can say about their last Premier League outing. The gulf in the class between the two sides though will be a tough one for their fans to take.
Their lack of quality and creativity in the final third must remain a real concern for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Fred and Pereira were horribly ineffective in the second half, as was Paul Pogba, who looked a little lost at times in midfield. They mustered just one shot on target and failed to expose the cautioned Vincent Kompany’s lack of pace at the back.
Despite the big names up front, United have now scored just once from open play in all of April, and they looked far from ending that barren run, against their bitter rivals tonight.
City, by contrast, were ruthless, moving the ball with pace and intent, tiring their opponents out and bypassing their defective midfield at will. This has been a huge match on their horizon for some time and to have breezed passed it with such ease will only bolster their confidence for the final three games.