This was without a doubt, the biggest game of the season. Manchester United faced their arch rivals in the back of a perfect start to the season. Unfortunately, Pep Guardiola’s side dominated the first 40 minutes, which was enough for City to score two past United, and make it very difficult for United to come back into the game. A crucial game in order to continue on a perfect start, to keep the noisy neighbors shut, but not all goes as planned. The match was definitely not a failure, the Red Devils had their fair share of chances, and should have taken advantage of them on crucial counter attacks when given the opportunity. It’s possible to say that the squad has let down the fans today, but there were still a couple of players who did their best to snatch a result, and these players are no other than Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Marouane Fellaini, and Antonio Valencia.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic had warned Claudio Bravo of what was to come in the Derby, and he took the perfect opportunity to set the new Manchester City goalkeeper down a level. Ibrahimovic did all he could to get is side back into the game; constantly making himself available for teammates to get him the ball, and always posing a threat to City’s defense. Ibrahimovic’s moment of brilliance was when he took control of the ball after Bravo had failed an attempted catch, and hit a smooth volley home to score United’s only goal of the game. (As per Squawka) Ibrahimovic had a total of 10 shots attempted, 65% passing accuracy, and a 50% air dual winning percentage. It could have been a better day for Ibrahimovic, but his experience and work ethic definitely helped his side.
Marouane Fellaini had a difficult task to face today, and whilst it was a bit too much for the Belgian to handle, his efforts to achieve what was wanted from those tasks must be taken into consideration. First off, Fellaini had to face Pep Guardiola’s illustrious football tactics, meaning his slow and long defensive strides had to go against fast paced tiki-taka football. Second, Fellaini had the task of defending his backline from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, which is never an easy task. Lastly, Fellaini had to put in the extra effort to help his midfield partner Paul Pogba, who simply wasn’t in the right mindset. Yes, United conceded two goals, and yes, they failed to keep up to the quick passing of a world-class side, but I strongly believe that the result could have been much worse if it wasn’t for Fellaini’s presence. This is shown through his match statistics, (as per Squawka), Fellaini had a pass accuracy percentage of 77%, creating three chances, winning 64% of his aerial duels, as well as seven interceptions and three clearances. This just comes to show how positive his transformation under Jose Mourinho has benefited the team.
For me, there were two players who clearly deserved praise for their efforts in today’s unfortunate loss, but after re-thinking, I have come to a conclusion that Antonio Valencia also deserves recognition. Being a defensive right back, it is hard to praise Valencia for his efforts after conceding two goals, but his efforts to stop further counter attacks was truly impressive. Valencia used his strength and speed to ensure that City would not score yet another goal and put his body on the line at many stages during the clash. Valencia has also transformed himself under Jose Mourinho, and he gives his teammates another alternative when going forward. Whilst he wasn’t able to find any clear paths in the tight-packed City defence, he never stopped applying pressure in hope to get something out of nothing. Defensively, Valencia was able to help his teammates by stopping any chances coming from the wings, as shown by his (as per Squawka) five blocks, 75% aerial dual winning percentage and his three clearances. Going forward, Valencia managed to complete two crosses, average a passing accuracy percentage of 85% and three take ons. It was far from being his best performance this season, but Valencia was one of the best United players in the field today.
Overall, I believe it is fair to say that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was United’s man of the match for today’s dispute against Manchester City. He wasn’t able to save the day as he has done so many times before, but he did bring Manchester United back into the game, and for that reason, he was able to outperform Marouane Fellaini and Antonio Valencia.