Man City’s dismal day ends in deserved derby defeat
Mark Ogden explains how Man United’s 2-0 win vs. Man City can potentially springboard the club back to glory.
Ederson had his worst performance since joining Manchester City on Sunday, gifting United two goals (and it could have been three), but make no mistake about it, it wasn’t just goalkeeping mistakes that led to City losing 2-0. United, not for the first time this season, showed that while this club might be a work in progress, they know how to sit and counter effectively. And, crucially for a team that’s going to play that way, if they have to sit and defend, they’re comfortable doing so.
United broke well in attack — so well, in fact, that if Anthony Martial and Daniel James had better peripheral vision, Bruno Fernandes might have bagged another two goals — and, more importantly, they defended very well. They didn’t just pack bodies back there; they sat deep while defending actively and in an organised way. That’s a credit to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The challenge, of course, is that you don’t always get to play this way. It’s not entirely clear that they’ve progressed at all against opponents who are equally happy to sit. Witness recent games against Everton (a draw), Wolves (also a draw) and Watford (a win, but the game could have taken a different turn). That’s what Solskjaer needs to get right.
As for Manchester City, Bernardo Silva put it best when he said “we need to play better, it’s not acceptable to play like this here at Old Trafford.” He’s right, of course, which is why Pep Guardiola’s reaction — “over the 90 minutes, we played really well” — leaves you dumbfounded and wanting to look closely at his nose to see if it gets that little bit longer as the words leave his mouth. City most definitely did not play well. They missed Kevin De Bruyne; Phil Foden reminded us that he’s still a teenager; and there were the usual wobbles at the back. This is not the standard he set over the past few years. Why he feels the need to state the opposite is tough to understand.
It might be as simple as motivation, which might explain why Guardiola keeps fiddling with his full-backs. They already won the League Cup, they might yet win the Champions League and FA Cup too: that’s the Treble they’re chasing right now. They’re obviously not catching Liverpool, and they’re highly unlikely to slip to third; even if they do, given that their European future rests with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, where they finish in the league might be largely irrelevant anyway. Still, it’s hard to fathom why Guardiola thinks it’s beneficial to say some of the stuff he says.