* When the final whistle blew in the Manchester Derby, it drew a curtain to one of the true classics in the premier league. The significance of the game, pre-match, was of differing degrees to both teams. The script was written weeks ago. Win at the Etihad over their eternal arch rivals.Manchester United needed to avoid the embarrassment of being the team to hand the trophy over to City. Manchester City were well on the way to their first title in four years, having dominated their counterparts and stamped their seal of utter superiority with two goals and plenty of snatched chances. In the first half, Man United seemed resigned to losing, barely registering a punch as Man City ran rings around them.
The second half resurgence was surprising as it was stirring. Mourinho was certainly displeased with the strange surrender and the half time talk jolted his slumbering team back to life. The team which looked dead and buried was suddenly squaring up to their bigger, slicker cousins. The final result means City have to wait a little while to win the title.
* The midweek result at Anfield altered the way Pep Guardiola approached the game. Sterling was conspicuous with his absence as Liverpool stormed their way through a shaky, panicky City. Pep had since accepted responsibility for the result and the tactics.
They have a three goal deficit in Europe and juggling players between competitions is an unenviable task. Pep Started without a striker which raised eyebrows. At first, it seemed they were going to get stuck until Vincent Kompany happened. Manchester City were utterly dominant that not having a central striker was mercy.
* Mourinho started with Pogba in an advanced position behind Lukaku. Interesting considering Pogba was the topic of discuss pre-game. Pep had, earlier in the week, deliberately let slip that Pogba, alongside Henrikh Mkhitaryan, was offered to Man City by the players’ agent. It was a revelation which was clever of the Spanaird. The 47 year old played his hand, and in his plan, sort to elicit negativity in the United camp.
Pogba hasn’t had the most fruitful relationship with his manager this season. Mourinho has been particularly critical of the young Frenchman. This big game, however, needed a big character. Mourinho wasn’t going to let whispers distract from the task at hand. Pogba was drafted in. And in hindsight, this was a brilliant move from Mourinho: Not falling for Pep Guardiola’s mind games.
*Without a central sriker, Man City prioritised control without a cutting edge in the final third. It was a risky move given Man United’s strength in defense. But with Man United dropping deep and showing no ambition beyond clearing balls way from dangerous positions, the goal was was always going to come. Kompany, vilified for the his role in the capitulation at Anfield, headed in powerfully; despite the efforts of a well beaten Chris Smalling. That was the spring board for city’s complete takeover.
Manchester United were at City’s mercy and they could have been out of sight at half time. It was going well and 2-0 flattered United massively.
* Raheem Sterling has improved in leaps and bounds this season. Under Pep’s astute tutelage, he has shown that he can be a constant feature in a side managed by the most sought after coach in football. His finishing has improved, his interplay with SIlva et al has reached near telepathic levels. He takes more responsibility and has won vital points for his team with late goals.
He has to, however, take some blame for this defeat. Man City should have been five goal up at half time. Most of the chances came to Sterling who choose a wrong time to perform a re-enactment of his old unsure self. He had two fine chances to put the ball past De Gea. He gave himself no favours by contriving to miss from barely 12 yards out on both occasions. With no striker on the pitch, he is the closest thing to a focal point city have in the team. He blew it spectacularly. It is displays like these that show that, despite undeniable progress, he’s still a work in progress. Improve on that finishing, Raheem.
*İlkay Gündoğan scoring was an icing on the cake. The turn and finish was exquisite. I’m struggling to find a weakness in the City team in terms of personnel alternatives. Kevin De Bruyne is out? Get in İlkay Gündoğan. Oh, no striker? There’s Bernardo Silva as a false nine. There is so much quality in this team that would make most managers wet.
Even though the lesser Silva was the designated focal point, Sterling was at the end of some glorious chances. This contracts sharply with Mourinho’s style where every player has a specific job on the pitch. The fluidity of position was fascinating to watch. On their flowing best, City are a incarnation of the Barcelona of the 2008-2012 hey days. Pep Guardiola has created something special here and despite this setback, it shouldn’t be forgotten how very good this City side has been for most of the season.
* Pogba, completely subdued by City’s passing carousal, was abject for much of the first half. Indeed, most of his teammates were. He couldn’t get close to Silva and İlkay Gündoğan. The game compeltely passed him by but occasions like these are evidence of his immense talent.
Determined to alter the course of the game, he, and his comrades, came out the tunnel like enraged beasts. The tameness i their play evaporated with each tackle and forward run. Playing catch up isn’t Pogba’s game and doesn’t play to his strengths. Getting himself in a goal scoring situation, he ran unto a Herrera’s pass off the chest and slotted past Ederson with calm precision. It was the beginning of a revival United had threatened in spurts.
*The second goal turned the game on it’s head. After looking like conquered foes for most of the first half, United were pouring warm water on their fireworks. Kompany, was culpable was he could track the run of Pogba. It was pretty basic defending which City were near powerless to stop. it was gross incompetence which would have Pep tearing out what remains of his hair.
City looked vulnerable with each United attack and the third goal duly came. Manchester United had a clear advantage over their noisy neighbours in size and height. Chris Smalling was on hand to finish past Ederson. It was a turnaround no one believed would happened just minutes before. It was exciting for the neutral and exhilarating for the average Manchester United fan.
* There was a genuine shout for a penalty with City pushing for an equaliser after Young caught Aguero in the box. He did get the ball but took a lot of the man as well. It should have been a penalty. It is a stone wall penalty. Why Martin Atkinson decided otherwise, only he knows.
The referee was excellent as he managed frantic frictions between both parties with clam assurance. That penalty decision is a blight on a fine display.
* Manchester United also have David De Gea to thank for the win. De Gea’s save to stop a goal-bound Aguero header was nothing short of miraculous. While the out fielders did their jobs in getting the win, De Gea had to play his part in securing it. Manchester United have one of the best goalkeepers of his generation. It was a pivotal save which cemented his place as the world’s best goallie.
*Gabriel Jesus should have walked as he bundled Sanchez (was it?) over. Frustration boiled over as both teams nearly came to blows. This is the sort of derbies we want to watch. Lots of goals and fractions all over the pitch. It was a welcome anti-dote to the drab affair at Goodison Park. It was a brilliant game i couldn’t get enough of.
*City have to wait for their premier league title. What has started as arguably their best ever season in the top flight is fast becoming a little less fanfarey. City still have the difficult assignment of facing Liverpool in the Champions League. The first half showed what a frightening team they can be. The second half has shown vulnerability which can be exploited and exposed. Liverpool and Kloop would be taking notes.