Man United’s top four hopes took yet another hit after they lost 4-1 to bitter rivals Manchester City at the Etihad today.
Pep Guardiola’s side came into the game looking to extend their lead at the top of the table to six points and the Citizens got off to the perfect start when the brilliant Kevin de Bruyne put them 1-0 after just five minutes. The Belgian playmaker was given all the space in the world inside the Man United area and he duly obliged by stroking home Bernardo’s Silva’s cut-back from the left flank.
Ralf Rangnick’s side had begun brightly despite going a goal down, the Red Devils looking confident in possession and pressing the hosts high up the pitch. On 22 minutes United would be rewarded for their positivity when summer signing – and City youth academy product – Jadon Sancho finished off a counter-attack by curling a quality strike into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Just six minutes later though and City would regain superiority through that man de Bruyne, the 30-year-old calmly slotting home from close-range after a penalty box scramble that had been instigated by some wonderful skill by Phil Foden.
If the first-half had been a relatively even affair, the second was completely different, with City absolutely dominating after the second period began. Guardiola’s side began to outclass their local rivals and the only surprise was that it took until the 68th minute before they killed off the game by scoring a third.
When the crucial third goal came it was through a moment of real quality, with de Bruyne turning provider by flighting a corner to the edge of the area that the lively Riyad Mahrez stroked home on the half volley past David de Gea.
A performance that had started impressively soon began to descend into embarrassing territory for Man United. Guardiola’s men began to toy with their opponents with the home crowd Ole-ing as a dejected United were left chasing shadows.
In the 90th minute, City would add a fourth goal that their performance and United’s capitulation fully merited, Mahrez registering his second by hammering past de Gea after being slipped through by Ilkay Gundogan.
Manchester United’s second half display. Wow. pic.twitter.com/kuPxzOOv49
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United are now in fifth a point behind Arsenal in fourth, with the Gunners having an ominous three games in hand. Speaking afterwards United interim boss Rangnick was pleased with his side’s first-half display, but admitted his side have a ‘long way to go’ to close the gap to the top sides.
“I think we played a good, if not decent first half,” Rangnick told Sky Sports. ”We were competitive. Difficult to concede an early goal. We came back, scored a brilliant goal ourselves then conceded another on the counter.
“It was a very difficult game against one of the best teams in the world. We conceded a fourth in the last minute of the game. It is a difficult game that shows we have a long way to go to close that gap.
“[The formation] was working. For us, it was clear if we want a chance to win the game we have to do a lot of running. You have to be in attacking and hunting mode and we did that in the first half. The players tried everything. The third goal killed us off in the end.
Asked what changed in the second half, he said: “It’s difficult, if we attack them very high there is a lot of negative running you need to do. The third goal is a brilliantly taken corner and it is almost impossible to defend that.
“The second half they were the better team and they showed the quality they have. We struggled especially after they scored the third one.”