Manchester is RED, only a league cup game but a derby nevertheless. Manchester United have beaten Manchester City 1-0, with the help of a Juan Mata goal to throw their city rivals out of the competition. This victory is now even sweeter due to the fact that it comes on the back of a 4-0 debacle at Stamford Bridge. United started out with a stronger side as against their opposition who made nine changes to the team. But in spite of having their premier attackers in the game for better part of the second half, it did not, for one instance, looked like they would score.
The first half was a 50-50 affair with neither teams really going very close to scoring. United got better towards to latter part of it, where some impressive runs resulted in half chances, which, unfortunately, did not amount to anything. The game started on a very shaky note for Mourinho’s men, when a dangerous cross from Jesus Navas was mishit by Kelechi Iheanacho over the goal. But for about half an hour after that, not much happened for either team in the game. City did not dominate as they did in the League game earlier this season, but neither did United. Marcus Rashford was lively on the left side but that was about it for United till that time. The action shifted to the other side of the pitch but neither teams really got dangerously close to the goal, barring one instance where Michael Carrick’s clumsy clearance saw ball taken away from the foot of a City forward.
It was a sloppy challenge and a little “here and there” could have resulted in a penalty. But United picked up a gear or two in the latter part of the half and put together a couple of decent runs. Luke Shaw, who has missed a lot of action in the recent past, picked up some kind of tempo. He made a good run down the left flank, to run past his man, passed it on to Pogba, who in turn laid it off for Ibrahimovic, whose shot was blocked and resulted in a corner. It was one of the few decent attacking movement seen in the first half. Another one came only minutes later when a counter from City was broken due to a foul. A quick free kick saw Ibrahimovic lay out a beautifully weighted pass for Rashford, but again Guardiola’s men got back in time to restrict the damage to a corner.
The first half scoreline of 0-0 was a perfect depiction of how the half went and the stage was set for both the teams to go out for the win. And one team surely did. United started off the second half brilliantly with waves and waves of attack and they were deservedly rewarded for their efforts. A smart piece of work from Ibrahimovic saw him free and with some space on the left to pass the ball to incoming Mata, who calmly finished off the chance to much delight of the packed Old Trafford crowd. There were shouts for foul, against Herrera, in the penalty box but the referee ruled the goal in. There on, it was only a matter of keeping the lead alive. However, it was not just back against the wall defending by United. They were smart, resourceful and completely unlike of what everyone saw against Chelsea. City did not get even close to scoring an equalizer and it was pretty comprehensively done in the end by Red Devils. The scoreline did read 1-0 and it was a tight game but only one team looked like scoring in this game, especially in the second half. Guardiola even brought his attacking duo of Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling but to no avail.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, although not scoring, was fantastic for United today. His hold up play, regaining the possession and putting balls through for others made a lot of difference. He was part of most of the attacks that came close to a goal. Pogba, too, showed a little glimpse of his magic but he still has some way to go, which is only because of the huge potential that, everyone know, he brings. Other player’s who impressed was Herrera, who was relentless and energetic throughout the game. He was crucial for United in pressing the City players in their own half. Another player who no one thought would fare well was Marcus Rojo. Fair play to him for doing his job better than what people expected out of him. Overall, the performance was not perfect but much better than the last game, especially the defense.
All in all, it was a much-needed United victory and also a much deserved one. The manager would be happy with the efforts that his players put in. This game also ends United’s tough run of games in October. They did not do exceptionally well but have maintained their distance to the top and have progressed to the Quarter Finals of the League Cup. The important thing now for United is to use this as a launchpad for picking up their performances in the league games and making their way up the table. One can see the potential is there, the team simply needs clicking. The effort put in today by the players was exceptional and that is the level they need to maintain throughout the season across all competitions. Hopefully, this will now trigger into something positive for the players and the squad in general. Here’s to more good times.
Goals: Juan Mata 54′
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Rojo, Blind, Shaw; Herrera, Carrick; Mata (Schneiderlin 73′), Pogba, Rashford (Lingard 82′); Ibrahimovic
Substitutes Not Used: Romero; Darmian; Memphis, Young, Fellaini
Bookings: Antonio Valencia 26′, Zlatan Ibrahimovic 90+1′, Paul Pogba 90+1′