So the Manchester Derby happened and the blue half of the town won the game. The game was billed as one of the early defining moments of the season. The game was being hyped for a number of reasons. Jose Mourinho was going up against his rival, Pep Gourdiola. Ibrahimovic was looking to dish out revenge. 2 teenage sensations, Iheanacho and Rashford. So did the game live up to its hype? Yes, it did.
The match ended in a 2-1 away win for Manchester City. The match was a pulsating encounter right from the start. All the three goals came in the first half itself, but the second half was more entertaining. As is often the case, the game was a game of two different halfs. Here is an in depth analysis of the game-
De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw, Fellaini, Pogba, Mkhitaryan, Rooney, Lingard, Ibrahimovic
The omission of Marcus Rashford came as a surprise as he had just bagged a hat-trick in his debut game for the England Under 21.
Bravo, Sagna, Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva (C), Sterling, Nolito, Iheanacho
City were without their talismanic striker, Sergio Aguero, who had been banned for 3 games due to violent conduct. As a result, their academy star, Iheanacho started up front. The game also was the debut of goalkeeper Cluadio Bravo, who had joined Manchester City from Barcelona.
Manchester City completely dominated the first half. City moved the ball around extremely quickly and United were simply spectators for much of the game. Whatever few moments United had on the ball, they passed the ball sloppily and under pressure from City’s high press. So, it came as no surprise when City scored the first goal after 15 min of play. The goal was scored by Kevin De Bruyne, a player sold by Mourinho in his Chelsea days. What did come as a surprise was the defensive blunder that caused the goal. Daley Blind simply switched off, allowing Kevin De Bruyne to go 1v1 against De Gea.
City scored another goal in the 36th minute when Iheanacho tapped in De Bruyne’s shots’s ricocheted off the goal post. As was the case in the first goal, the defense simply collapsed in this too. It was a static defense and a far cry from the defensive astuteness of Mourinho’s previous clubs. It seemed as if Pep’s team was going to add another goal sooner rather than later. Ibrahimovic however, had different ideas.
Ibrahimovic pulled one back for Manchester United after Manchester City goalkeeper, Claudio Braco fumbled a simple catch. Wayne Rooney’s ball had been deep, but what Bravo did was laughable. He made a rookie mistake and Ibrahimovic buried the ball in the back of the net. Ibrahimovic then spurned two great chances to equalize the game as Bravo was simply all over the place. He first headed the ball straight at Bravo’s throat. Moments later he fired a tame shot as Bravo was once again caught off guard. The half time whistle came as a sigh of relief for Pep as United had started piling the pressure.
To sum it all up, City dominated the game for nearly 40 minutes. United eventually pulled one back thanks to Bravo’s mistake. Manchester United’s wingers had simply gone missing. To put it bluntly, United were playing with 9 men. Mkhitaryan and Lingard were not contributing with or without the ball. Ibrahimovic’s goal had come at a crucial juncture of the game. It could provide the ideal launch pad for Mourinho’s men in the second half.
As I earlier said, the game was a case of two halves. Jose Mourinho subbed in teenage sensation Rashford and Ander Herrera for Jesse Lingard and Henrik Mikhitaryan thanks to their dismal performance in the first half. The impact was instant. Hererra played some beautiful balls from the deep while Rashford some really brilliant runs. It was a pity to see Ibrahimovic’s effort go over the bar after Rashford’s stunning run and a peach of a cross. United were dominating the proceedings as Pep dropped his famed possession philosophy and instead instructed City to play on the counter.
Pep Gourdiola’s decision to replace Joe Hart with Claudio Bravo was coming under increasing scrutiny after the latter’s dismal showing. He gifted another chance to United to equalize but they couldn’t capitalize yet again. With each passing moment, Caludio Bravo’s confidence was dipping and Manchester United were gaining the upper hand.
Ibrahimovic was playing like a man possessed. The moment he would get the ball, the giant Swede would simply unleash a shot at goal. He would’ve scored again had Nicolas Oatamendi not put his foot across to deflect the shot just wide. Rashford nearly levelled the game, but the goal was ruled offside. His effort took a deflection of Ibrahimovic’s leg and crept inside the goal. However, Ibrahimovic was in an offside position.
Moments later, City nearly scored their third as Oatamendi failed to turn in Kevin De Bruyne’s cross. As the match progressed, Raheem Sterling began to cut a more and more frustrated figure. He was tightly marked by Luke Shaw and was barely given any space to maneuver. One man however was a man on fire. Kevin De Bruyne was unlucky to not have scored a hat-trick in the game as his shot came off the bar the second time in the evening. Manchester United were hoping to ride their luck and at least secure a draw.
As the game crept towards the 80 minute mark, signs of fatigue started becoming visible in the United camp. A string of late challenges forced Pep to simply let go of the attacking prospect of the game. The famed possession man parked the bus. Even attacking players like Sane (who came on for Sterling) were asked to stay back and defend. Mourinho responded by throwing caution to the winds and bought on Martial for Shaw. He changed the formation from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3 as Manchester United increased the pressure even more. Alas, it bore no fruit and the game ended in a 2-1 win for the Cityzens despite a string of chances in the end for United.
The end result was a fair one even though a draw would’ve done more justice. The game was decided by the defensive blunders instead of moments of magic. In fact all the 3 goals were due to shoddy defending. However, the game would provide a major confidence for Manchester City and serve as a wake up call for Manchester United. The first 40 minutes let Manchester United down. Their wingers simply forgot to show up and their 89 million Euro man, Paul Pogba didn’t do much except for showing up in patches. The second half was a turnaround of sorts as United dominated the proceedings. However, at the end the blunders done at the start proved costly for Mourinho’s men.
Pep would also need to rethink his strategy as Claudio Bravo is more of a liability if he continues in this vein of form. Sterling’s no show would also be a cause of concern. The biggest worries for both the managers will however be their static defenses. On the brighter side, Kevin De Bruyne’s form will definitely please Pep as Aguero will be banned for 2 more games. Marcus Rashford’s fine fettle will also be a welcome sight for Mourinho. How the two clubs take this result remains to be seen.
FLOPS OF THE GAME
Henrik Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard and Daley Blind.
The two wingers simply forgot to turn up for the game while Daley Blind gifted Manchester City the opener.
Claudio Bravo and Raheem Sterling.
The shot-stopper brought from Barcelona to replace fan favorite Joe Hart had a torrid evening. He gave nearly 3 opportunities to Manchester United to equalize. It was just plain luck that United couldn’t capitalize.
Sterling on the other hand disappeared along with United’s wingers. He has simply failed to live up to his 49 million price tag.
STARS OF THE GAME
Marcus Rashford and Zlatan Imbrahimovic
Rashford once again showed why he is touted as the next big thing in English football. He nearly equalized while providing countless other chances for others to score.
Ibrahimovic pulled a goal back for United and showed that even at the age of 34, he is still a major threat in front of goal.
Kevin De Bruyne and Nicolas Otamendi
Kevin De Bruyne was simply amazing. Chelsea must be really questioning themselves as to why they let him go.? He was amazing and was fittingly adjudged as the man of the match.
Otamendi had a great game and was often at hand to make sure that Bravo’s mistakes didn’t lead u to a goal.
All in all, it was a great game with some end to end action. Can’t wait for next week’s clash between Chelsea and Liverpool