Derby delight for Man United as City’s winning streak comes to an end
- Early penalty unsettled Guardiola's blues
- United nullified City threat to keep up pressure on second place
- Luke Shaw deservedly man of the match
Who saw that coming? A Manchester United victory away against a Manchester City team who were on a seemingly unstoppable winning run.
United went into the game as clear underdogs after failing to score in their previous three games but were awarded a penalty inside the first minute when Anthony Martial was fouled inside the box by Gabriel Jesus.
Bruno Fernandes dispatched from the spot, despite Ederson getting a strong hand to his penalty, before City grew into the game as the first half went on, dominating possession up until half-time.
United flew out of the traps in the second half though, with the in-form Luke Shaw finding the bottom corner after a bombing run down the left flank and a one-two with Marcus Rashford.
The result takes United up to second in the table, 11 points behind City with 10 league games still left to play.
So where did it all go wrong for City?
Throughout the game, there were certainly enough spells to suggest City might get a goal and the substitutes Pep made were the right ones. Shaw’s goal so early in the second half reduced the chances for Guardiola to sensibly manage his minutes. At 2-0 down he had to chase the game, which only played further into United’s hands.
It was rare to see City struggle this way, particular on their own ground. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer surprised many by opting to play a high defensive line in a big match, even without Bailly. And it’s true; Pep seemed unable to do anything about it. That’s partly because he has so much faith in the way City play, he will always back his players, his system, his methodology. It has got them this far, after all. But it was difficult not to come away thinking it was one of those occasions - there have not been many, in fairness – when City missed having a peak-form Sergio Aguero and needed more of a presence in attack.
Even Phil Foden. He probably should’ve started the game. He came on in the second half and injected a burst of pace that City were missing throughout the game. The energy and sharpness that he showed within seconds of coming on, just makes you wonder why he didn’t start the game.
What is City’s biggest concern after this game?
There was a ‘Champions League collapse’ feel to this game. The nervy opening where they were surprised by an opponent’s aggressive press. The 20 minutes where De Bruyne was very sloppy on the ball. Sterling had an awful day in front of goal.
We all know City can pass the ball beautifully and are worthy champions-in-waiting. They are, almost certainly, going to win the Premier League for the third time in four seasons and they still have a decent shout in three other competitions. Even so, it was startling to see the anxiety spread through Pep’s players.
Delight for Manchester United as they move back to second in the league, 1 point above Leicester
Remember when Solskjaer said Luke Shaw could be the best left-back in England last January? He was just coming back from injury and Brandon Williams had made an impact. Now he’s arguably the best left-back in England. He’s had a superb 14 months and was brilliant against City. He has created the most chances (34) in the league in 2021, two more than the Chelsea midfielder, Mason Mount (32).
Against Manchester City, he was voted Sky Sports’ MOTM. This was his game by numbers:
88% pass accuracy
9 ball recoveries
Personally, I think United were brilliant. I think we can all agree on that. This was a big game for Ole and the pressure was on for United to perform. As we know, United have a tendency to show up in games that hold huge importance, especially away from home. After struggling to beat Palace away from home, the pressure was always on for them to get something out of the Derby.
But United’s performance surprised me. I knew they’d be solid defensively but I didn’t expect them to have as much possession on the ball. I didn’t think they’d get as many final third opportunities as they did. United had a lot more chances than I’d expected and they were playing City off the park for parts of the game.
Another thing that really surprised me was Ole’s decision to play with a high line. They’d have played a high line with Bailly starting, but he didn’t. Maguire and Lindelof as centre backs don’t have great pace between them but they were brave on and off the ball. It surprised me a lot, especially with City’s inability to take advantage of it by playing balls in behind.
I still think the title is City’s. There is a significant gap at the top so no real cause for concern for Pep. As for United, I think a few more wins will guarantee a second place finish. Obviously, they still have tough games to play but they don’t have many injury concerns at the moment. Well, maybe Pogba. As long as they keep performing as well as they have been over the past few months, I don’t see them slipping to third or fourth. A Champions League spot is assured.
What’s next for City & Utd…
Losing the burden of that 21-game winning run may help Manchester City focus on what's next and work even harder, especially in the Champions League where Pep has proved he's definitely beatable. They host Southampton in the Premier League on Wednesday with kick-off at 6pm, where they will have the opportunity to extend their lead at the top to 14 points. United host AC Milan in the Europa League last 16 first leg on Thursday with kick-off at 5:55pm before returning to Premier League action at home to West Ham on Super Sunday; kick off at 7:15pm.