José Mourinho and Manchester United were made to look like boys playing against men in the Manchester derby today, as Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City team completely outplayed their Manchester counterparts and set their mark for the 2016-2017 EPL season. Despite being without the suspended Aguero, and other players like Yaya Toure and Kompany, City made their intentions clear as from kickoff by playing high up the pitch, and with a pace which left the Red Devils rooted to their half. Pep Guardiola had announced during the week that he would attack at Old Trafford, and his players did not let him down one bit in the match. His tactics and involvement were clearly well above Mourinho, and the positioning of his players on the field and pace were just excellent and gave United a real headache.
United were under threat in the opening minutes, as De Bruyne (star man of this match for me), crossed the ball in, but Sterling was just short to get a touch. United were struggling, but responded on a counterattack, but Pogba, still not justified his £100M transfer, volleyed well over the bar. City got a deserved goal on the 15th minute thru De Bruyne, as Kolarov launched a long ball forward, with Bailly being too timid to attack Iheanacho, and the latter deflected the ball into De Bryune’s path, who went on a raid on Blind and kept his calm to slot home the opener.
United could not muster any response this time, while City were strolling on the pitch. Zlatan and Rooney were clearly shadows of themselves, while Lingard on his left wing was just not up to the standards to play in a game like this, and Mkhitaryan was struggling as well on his right wing. Makes us think twice why Mourinho for a derby had to make changes like these, as Martial and Mata were the ones so far occupying these positions, and were good as well. City doubled their lead on the 36th minute, this time Iheanacho scoring, with De Bruyne once again involved in the setup. The latter went past his defenders to unleash a low shot, and while De Gea was rooted to his near post, the ball struck the far post and came out only for Iheanacho to slot home. Despite offside protests from the men in red, it was clearly a legal goal, as Blind once again was the culprit to play Iheanacho onside. United however were given an undeserved lifeline by new keeper Bravo on the 42nd minute, as he failed to deal with a long freekick sent in the box by Rooney, and a mix-up with Stones saw him lose the ball, which dropped to an eager Zlatan to volley home. United pressed on to try equalize before half-time, but in vain, as Zlatan twice failed, first with a header straight at Bravo, then a weak attempt with the keeper beaten, but Stones on hand to stop the ball calmly and clear his line.
The second half saw Rashford and Herrera being sent on for the 2 wingers, but United were unable to get the much awaited equalizer, with Rashford seeing his effort being written off after the ball touched Zlatan on it’s way in, but the latter was clearly offside. At the other end, De Gea had to make two crucial back to back saves to keep some hope alive, as De Bruyne then Otamendi saw their respective shots kept out. De Bruyne had another opportunity minutes later to seal the win, but his shot again struck the post, flirted with the line, then went out for a goalkick, as De Gea, not looking really inspired, was well beaten this time. United tried some long ball tactics as the game came to its end, but all failed as Guardiola had packed his midfield well and the Red Devils were really made to look miserable and “old” in this game, and Zlatan’s goal came only as a consolation in the end
The decision of playing Lingard and Mkhitaryan is clearly beyond me, mostly for such a derby, while Pogba did not make any impact in this game, either he’s still troubled by the price tag, or he’s just not up to the level in this league (may be SAF had seen something, thus allowing him to leave). The £100M paid so far does seem to be a waste really, as he’s not been influential in any of the games played so far, and his shooting really needs some work! City were worthy winners today, and if they are back to full squad again, they may well challenge for yet another title, while the same cannot be said for United, where more work is clearly required from Mourinho, may be bench players like Rooney and Zlatan for some time, and let youngsters like Martial and Rashford settle in and bring in a different approach to the game.