After The Whistle : Manchester City 2–1 Manchester United
“What I told them at half-time was for some of you it looks like you are trying to do what I told you not to do”
— José Mourinho
The United derby topped the list of the games we were most excited to watch this weekend, and it did not disappoint.
Welcome to our weekly series where we, the staff at GCR, preview the upcoming football fixtures and discuss the major…thegoldcoastreport.com
A major talking point before the match started was how City would line up without their suspended striker, would Guardiola opt for a false nine, or trust City’s burgeoning young striker, Iheanacho with the responsibility of leading the attack? He opted for the latter and was duly rewarded as early in the 15th minute, the young Nigerian beat Bailly in the air to knock down Kolarov’s cross into the path of De Bryune who promptly put the ball past de Gea after Blind as the last man, inexplicably failed to challenge for the ball or attempt to stop De Bryune.
For United, their starting XI surprised a fair number of people. Mkhitaryan was given his first start whilst Jesse Lingard was in line to make his first appearance in the league for the club. Anthony Martial has admittedly not played his best football these last few weeks so there was no surprise there. However, it was a surprise to see Mata, who had started the season brightly, start the game on the bench. As expected when the match begun, United’s game plan was to cede possession early on, allowing City to dominate. This strategy saw the Citizens end the game with 60% possession. United’s sloppy passing [76%], especially in the opening 30min of the game meant they regularly lost the ball during the few moments they launched an attack. City’s tenacious tackling saw the United players forced into poor passes, shot selections and losing out on 50–50 challenges for loose balls.
City’s second goal came 20min later in the 36th minute. The United’s defence’s failure to properly clear Sterling’s pass to Iheanacho saw the ball fall to De Bryune whose perfectly executed shot ricocheted off the far post, into the feet of Iheanacho who, standing less than 3 yards out, made no mistake guiding the ball into an unattended net. City’s control of the game saw them carve out chance after chance and credit to United, it was their resolute defending that stopped their cross-city rivals from increasing their lead.
Claudio Bravo, City’s new goalkeeper had a mixed performance at best. On one hand, his passing and positioning high up the pitch meant City were able to not only move the ball along quickly but also force United into pressing higher up the pitch, leaving spaces behind for City’s fleet-footed midfield magicians to exploit. Perhaps it was the shock of how easy United were making this that made him overconfident because it was his error in the 42nd minute that led to United reducing the deficit through a Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal. Bravo fumbled the cross which fell to Zlatan who wasted no time guiding that into the open net. The same situation again repeated itself again during the first half extra-time. Only this time, City had a man behind to make a goal line clearance. Bravo’s penchant for asking for the ball and playing with his feets means that Premier League clubs will continue to press him higher up in hopes of forcing more errors out of him. Also, regardless of which side you were rooting for, anyone watching would agree the Chilean was lucky to not only have escaped a booking (or two), or concede a penalty.
“If we defend like this, we aren't going to win a single game”thegoldcoastreport.com
Half-time changes saw Herrera and Rashford come to replace Mkhitaryan and Lingard. José’s changes pushed Pogba upfield where he had more impact on proceedings and saw Rooney move out wide to the right. Whether buoyed by the goal before halftime, their coach's substitutions or the team deciding to play better, the 2nd half saw United play more purposefully, keeping possession and forcing City to drop back to defend. Pep’s decision to bring in Fernando (replacing Iheanacho) to shore up the midfield helped counter United’s attacking resurgence. Ultimately, City were able to hold on and even had a few more chances to put the game to bed as United were pushing forward in great numbers.
Both managers would have walked away from this game learning much more about their new squad. The City man however walked away from Old Trafford with all three points, and a pep in his step, knowing his team can still eviscerate teams without their key man Agüero, upfront. For the man now tasked with returning glory to the Old Trafford supporters, this performance serves as an early reminder of how much work needs to be done if this squad is to go on ahead to win any silverware this season.