Game of the Week
Manchester United 1–2 Manchester City, Old Trafford, September 10th 2016
The Manchester Derby was billed as the biggest game of the season thus far, and it didn’t dissapoint. It was electric, intense, quick, dramatic… it was so many things. There is nothing, truly, more exciting than a football match which pulsates and where the pendulum swings on so many occasions. This had it all and was a treat to watch. In the end, it was the ‘noisy neighbours’ who claimed all the points in what could be a crucial 90 minutes in the title race. But, there is much to be positive about for both teams, and certainly a little to be wary of heading into the future.
The first 40 minutes was top draw from Manchester City and Guardiola. City nullified the United threat all over the park, and absolutely dominated. The United midfield, of Pogba and Fellaini, couldn’t handle the dynamism of Fernandinho, De Bruyne and Silva, who played through the heart of Manchester United with ease. In truth, United were simply outclassed and were more than fortunate to be only 2–0 down after the first 40. A long Bravo ball forward resulted in a hesitant Blind, usually so comfortable on the ball, being dispossessed by De Bruyne who only had De Gea to beat… and beat him he did, slotting excellently into the near post to send the Spaniard the other way. After several City chances to double their lead, Iheanacho eventually slotted home a deflected De Bruyne shot to secure a comfortable 2–0 margin. However, new City goalkeeper, Bravo, than added a twist to the contest in a piece of goalkeeping he wont want to see again. Rooney delivered a high free kick into the box from deep, only for Bravo to scramble of his line and drop the ball, following a messy interaction with the impressive John Stones, and Zlatan finished impeccably. In truth, United should’ve been level by the interval, but Zlatan misdirected a shot into Stones’ feet and a header straight at Bravo.
Now, if the first half was all about City… the second half was more about United. Although they weren’t as dominant, Mourinho’s decision to withdraw the disappointing Lingard and Mkhitaryan for both Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford was a positive move which changed the dynamic of the game. Certainly, Marcus Rashford, in particular, was sensational in his constant threatening of the City backline. Pogba and Fellaini were pushed further forward, in an attempt to out strengthen City physically, as United began to play the ball in the air. In truth, United were unlucky not to equalise, certainly when Rashfords shot was deflected off Ibrahimovic and ruled offside as a result. City, though, looked as likely to score on the counter attack and Guardiola will be disappointed that his side didn’t put the game to bed as numerous 4 on 3s and 5 on 4s developed and were wasted. De Bruyne came closest in the second half, with another shot that cannoned of the inside of the post and somehow stayed out of the net. It was remarkable.
In the end, City held on for what could be a very important 3 points come the end of the season. This was a truly mouthwatering encounter in the first of many episodes, presumably, involving Pep v. Jose. The only frustration from this is that we must wait a fairly long time before the next one!
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