In the aftermath of the Manchester derby, in which Old Trafford hosts Manchester United lost 2-1 to Manchester City, Gary Neville expressed his surprise at the proceedings on the pitch. Neville, a former United player and now a pundit for Sky Sports, said that from the beginning of the build-up to the end of the match, the derby was nothing of the sort he imagined it to be. Goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho were almost cancelled out after a Zlatan Ibrahimovic volley but after a lot of defending City came away with the points, and more notably, the bragging rights.
Neville said he found the build-up to the derby to be similar to what he would imagine as a title decider, which this match wasn’t anywhere close to. On his podcast, Neville stated that he thought both sides would go into the derby trying to prevent any damage on the league table, which certainly wasn’t the case in retrospect.
“The build-up to the game was probably the biggest I’ve ever seen to what would be, in my eyes, a normal league game – obviously there have been title deciders between these two sides in previous years at the end of the season. This is a game four or five games into the season, and the build-up was huge. Subconsciously, we wondered whether the managers would think: ‘Let’s get out of here without damage.'”
Neville then went on to say that it ended up being the exact opposite, end-to-end football, both sides going at it hammer and tongs. Referring to the match as a ‘wonderful occasion’ despite his side’s negative result, was a sportsmanlike claim, but nonetheless one with merit to it. At the end of the match yesterday, the dropping of points was the most disappointing aspect of the game, because, in my opinion, Kevin De Bruyne’s majestic performance was the only difference between the two sides, and not enough to warrant serious bragging rights.
“Many predicted a draw, but it was absolutely nothing like I expected, it was the game you would have dreamt of in terms of end-to-end, punch-for-punch, both managers having to make substitutes and having to retreat. It really has been a wonderful occasion.”
Analyzing the game on a surface level, Neville agreed that City was majestic for the first 40 minutes and they dismantled United, showing the potential to improve as they become able to sustain that level of dominance for 90 minutes. According to the English right-back, City manager Pep Guardiola answered a lot of questions surrounding his potential success in the Premier League, showing everyone that he can do it after all.
“Man City for 40 minutes were special, fantastic. I think Man City dismantled Man Utd. The word I used in commentary was authority. When you’re a really top team, able to go to your biggest rivals with the biggest build-up, and just completely dominate, that’s when you see the makings of a really good side.
“Pep Guardiola came here with his team and answered a lot of questions. Not just they can dominate like he has done previously in other clubs, but also in the second half to withstand pressure and long balls.”
Reiterating that it was a great game to watch, Gary Neville also said that Manchester City will almost surely be in the top three this season and for good reason. Crediting Guardiola for what was a great win over a tough opponent, Neville also said that United would be sure to bounce back. He also said that this should have no impact on what happens at the end of the season. Ending with a fun thought, Neville said that he won’t be appearing in Manchester as much as he would’ve if United had won.
“They will this season [be inside the top three], they absolutely will this season. With my Manchester head on, without my red head on, I’m thinking that was a pretty fantastic game to watch for the rest of the country and rest of the world. We talked before the game about how many people would be watching this. You wouldn’t have been able to keep your eyes off it. There’s no way you’re leaving 10 minutes early from this.
“In terms of the season it’s very early days, it’s so early. For Pep Guardiola and City it’s a big day, to come and win here against a Jose Mourinho team is tough. He doesn’t lose many games at home, and it’s a big, big moment. Jose Mourinho will be dented tonight, damaged slightly; he’s a man of great pride, but they’ll respond, it’s still early days, and it doesn’t tell us about the league title and where it’s going. Ultimately it means City have bragging rights this week, and that I won’t appear in Manchester as much as I would have done if United had won!”
United hosts Feyenoord at Old Trafford in the opening match of the Europa League as Jose Mourinho’s men will look to bounce back from a disappointing defeat. However, the performance had a lot of positive moments, and, much like City in the first 40 minutes, as United replicates their second half and slowly starts to improve upon it, they will become a real force to be reckoned with.