City came away with three points from Old Trafford on Saturday, but how did the United players rate in the hotly anticipated derby?
The hype around big football matches can often be nauseating. Never before has a Manchester Derby been talked up so much, but, to be fair, people had good reason to this time. The clash of Mourinho and Guardiola is always a tasty one, especially given their less than friendly encounters in the El Classicos.
The purchases of Ibrahimović, Pogba and Mkhitaryan add real class to United whereas City’s acquisition of Stones and Bravo added depth to their already immensely talented squad. The players made up the most expensive football match of all time. This, combined with the fact that both teams had won all three of their opening games, was the reason why this Manchester Derby was bigger than most.
These types of games often do not live up to the hype around them, normally due to the in-depth pragmatic tactics adopted by both managers. Fortunately, this was not the case. Both managers went for the win, leading to the most exciting Premier League game of the season so far.
City sprinted out of the blocks while United were still putting their shoes on. The Reds were lucky to only be 2-0 down in the first 35. De Bruyne got on the end of a Guardiola-esque long ball and tucked away the opening goal coolly while an unfortunate rebound allowed Iheanacho to tap in for a second. A handling error from debutant Bravo let United back into the match which led to the second half being ridiculously tense affair. United chased the game while City tried to contain the threat and hit United on the counter. No one was sleeping through this one.
United, unfortunately, failed to break through City’s sturdy defence and the game finished 2-1. Mourinho blamed the referee for not awarding two penalties to United, but that was classic Mourinho deflecting the blame. His comments only masked the fact that his side had been tactically outplayed by the Sky Blues from across town. His team selection was wrong, but his in-game management gave United a chance. Unfortunately, they did not take it.
De Gea: 6
Faultless for both goals he conceded. Was left stranded by his defence for De Bruyne’s opener and was unlucky for the second goal. Was good at anticipating City’s low crosses into the box and claimed many of them with confidence, not something that could have been said about City’s number 1. Made a solid double save in the 70th minute after a succession of City corners.
Was under a lot of pressure in the first half as the majority of City’s attacks came down his side. Did not look like a natural right back when forced to deal with Nolito, who ran him in circles during the first 35. Was not helped by Mkhitaryan’s lack of defensive nous. Managed to get involved more in the second half, but his crosses did not threaten City enough.
If a striker tests Bailly for speed or strength, the Ivorian will, more often than not, be comfortable dealing with the threat. Today, Bailly was left dangerously unprotected by Fellaini and Pogba and was dazzled by the movement of De Bruyne, Nolito and Iheanacho. Failed to react quickly enough to De Bruyne’s rebounded shot, which Iheanacho poked home to double the scoring for the visitors. Made a couple of rash challenges, one of them which led to his first yellow card of the league season. All in all, Bailly kept his head and made some fine last ditch tackles in the final moments when he was consistently left in one-on-one situations.
Left hopelessly flat-footed when he misjudged Iheanacho’s through ball to De Bruyne for the opening goal in the 14th minute. Was left dawdling and ball-watching as De Bruyne’s shot rebounded off the post for Iheanacho to tap in. If he was more awake, he could have stepped up and played the young Nigerian offside. Made some good recovering tackles in the second half but looked shaken by the scale of the match. Distribution not as effective as normal, partly due to the pressure he was put under by City’s attackers.
Did his job of nullifying Sterling so effectively that the rejuvenated Englishman was taken off for Leroy Sané on the 60th minute. The ‘German Messi’ did not have much more luck than Sterling did at getting past Shaw. Failed to help Lingard or Rashford in an attacking sense, which is so often his forte.
It has been coming. The ginger Fellaini being a world class holding midfielder was never going to last. His screening of the United defence was nowhere near as effective as City’s Fernandinho. Won plenty of headers (seven), however the direction of his headers was consistently to the feet of the onrushing Silva and De Bruyne. Really struggled to pick up the two attacking midfielders, which is more Mourinho’s mistake than the Belgian’s as the Portuguese manager should have known that Fellaini was no match for two of the best midfielders in the league. Picked up a yellow card for (you guessed it) a high elbow in the 51st minute.
Looked really confident in the opening stages of the game, dribbling past his opponents with ease and lashing a powerful shot just over the bar. Unfortunately, that was one of very few highlights for the record signing. Mourinho made a big mistake in allowing Pogba to have a free roam as it left Fellaini as the only midfielder covering the centre backs, which he failed to do. If Pogba is going to be given the freedom of the pitch then he needs to work his magic to make up for his lack of defending. No magic show was on at the Theatre of Dreams this weekend from the Frenchman.
A really disappointing first start for the Armenian winger. Left Valencia to deal with City’s attacks and did not add enough creativity to United’s attacks. Was found numerous times in good positions on the right wing, but every single one of his crosses did not make it past the first man. When Ibrahimović is floating at the back post, aerial balls are key. Mkhitaryan, counterintuitively decided to try and fire the ball across the ground, which, unsurprisingly did not threaten City in any way. Was substituted at half time for Herrera.
Not one of the really poor performers. Looked like the most experienced United player on the pitch, geeing up his teammates and charging into tackles like the 2012 Rooney would have. Yet, like so many of his performances over the last three years, showed that his technical ability is waning. Failed to control some of the simplest passes and failed to pass to teammates when it seemed harder to find opponents. Should have probably won a penalty when fouled by Bravo, however Mark Clattenburg waved play on. Earned a silly yellow for a reckless challenge on Bravo later in the game.
Really, really bad. Looked frightened by the occasion from the start, which is unusual as he was so audacious in his debut Manchester Derby last year when his chip in the dying moments came off the crossbar. Had less possession than anyone else on the pitch, mostly because every ball was miscontrolled and every pass was too conservative. Was subbed off at half time and Mourinho hinted that he would have taken both Lingard and Mkhitaryan off earlier if it had not been for wanting to protect their confidence.
Took his goal well with the kind of impressive technique you would only expect from Zlatan. Apart from that, was very isolated and did not get into the game enough. In Ibra’s autobiography he states that he hated playing under Guardiola at Barcelona because the Spaniard made him quiet and follow orders. The Ibrahimović at United is uncharacteristically quiet in most of the games he has played so far, bar the odd outrageous back heel, which may be concerning. Was subdued again today for much of the match. That being said, the big Swede had more shots than anyone else on the pitch. Unfortunately they were erratic, often in areas where the better options may have been to pass rather than shoot. Missed a glorious opportunity to bring the game back level just before the half time whistle when Bravo, again, failed to intercept a cross.
Made an instant impact when he came on for Lingard at half time, running directly at Sagna, who did not know how to deal with the youngster. Despite looking positive, he failed when it came to end product and became more and more isolated when United started pumping the ball into the box from deep.
Came on for Mkhitaryan and was moved to an anchor midfield role. Not his speciality, but the Spaniard solidified midfield commendably and put United on the front foot in the second half, starting many of their attacks from deep. Should motivate Mourinho to play a three-man midfield in the future.
Came on for the final ten minutes but failed to make any real impact. As soon as the clock ticked past the 80th minute, the Reds decided to launch long balls into the box which did not fit Martial or Rashford’s style of play.