The 183rd Manchester derby ended in a stalemate with neither of the teams willing to risk everything for a win. The Mancunian clubs have had a rather underwhelming start to their season, with United and City positioned 7th and 8th with 20 and 19 points respectively at the time of writing this review. With a statement win, both of the teams could have proven their calibre of a Premier League winning side.
Alas, that wasn’t the case. One could argue that Manchester United were coming into the game after being knocked out of the Champions League and it only made sense for Manchester City, who had 5 consecutive clean sheets coming into the game – to add to their miseries. But derby games are different. Form doesn’t matter, rather it’s thrown out of the window. What matters is the will to win and the composure to snatch the 3 points.
Formation : 4-1-2-1-2
Goalkeeper : De Gea
Defenders : Shaw, Maguire, Lindelof, Wan Bissaka
Midfield : Fred, Pogba, McTominay, Fernandes
Attack : Greenwood ( Martial – 74’), Rashford
Formation : 4-2-3-1
Goalkeeper : Ederson
Defenders : Cancelo, Dias, Stones, Walker
Midfield : Rodrigo, Fernandinho, De Bruyne
Attack : Mahrez ( Torres – 66’), Jesus, Sterling
Pep Guardiola and Solksjaer did their homework. City have dropped points against every top 6 side they have met this season till now. Pep knew that the only way city would be beaten was through clinical counter-attacks. Hence he selected his preferred double pivot to protect his defenders who often got exposed to razor sharp counters due to their high line on the pitch. The double pivot has its cons too – while the defence is protected, there’s nobody to support De Bruyne higher up in the pitch. City’s forwards too, aren’t the most clinical in the world. We all knew what was going to happen. A toothless attack.
United’s plan was simple. Sit back, draw in the pressure and attack on counters. This way they had got the better of City on the past 3 occasions with an average of 32% of possession. But they didn’t anticipate the conservative approach City had towards the fixture this time around. They had no space to counter because city weren’t their usual selves. City were not going all out attack and leaving tons of space on the flanks for the Utd wingers to counter.
City found a chance nonetheless when Jesus teed up a pass to De Bruyne after collecting the ball at the middle of the park, with De Bruyne gently rolling it to Mahrez to set up a curler. Mahrez unfortunately took a heavy touch and had a half hearted shot that was blocked by Maguire. Maguire also found himself just at the right place at the right time to block a goal bound shot by Sterling who dribbled past Lindelof after faking a shot off Wan Bissaka. Maguire was United’s best player.
Pep, seemingly satisfied with the structure of the team, didn’t opt to make any changes. Same goes for Ole. 10 mins into the start of the second half, United smelled blood and created a massive moment wherein Fernandes curled in a beautiful cross to Rashford who, in an attempt to control the ball collided with Walker’s feet softly to win a penalty. Later the play was ruled out due to offside. Rashford was a few centimeters ahead of Stones.
Manchester City had their chances when Mahrez dipped in a beautiful ball for Jesus, only for Jesus to rocket it off since it had a bounce and was thereby difficult to control. A few minutes later, Cancelo scooped in a similar ball for Jesus who tried to set up De Bruyne from a point blank range, only to see the shot blocked by none other than Maguire. There were a few other similar chances but honestly at the 80th minute mark it was clear that none of the teams were going to score. The teams were so conservative.
This game was a must win for both the teams. Both of them could have made it to the top 4 with 3 points and would have gained invaluable belief of being potential champions. However with the stalemate, the teams are in a miserable position. A position that doesn’t make sense for clubs that had recently made huge strides in the transfermarket. Both the teams actually played really good football.
But you have to convert chances in order to win. City who sit in the 8th position and might drop down further after the Matchday, know it really well. With a win, both Tottenham and Liverpool could go top – meaning Utd and City would be 7 and 8 pts off the top respectively, albeit with a game in hand. Both the clubs are making the situation worse for themselves by putting the players under tremendous pressure. This game will have serious repercussions.
With only 11 games played, the Mancunian clubs are not where they want to be.
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