Guardiola makes nine changes as City go out with a whimper
EFL Cup Fourth Round
Wednesday 26 October 2016, 20.00 KO
City: Caballero, Maffeo, Kompany (Kolarov 45), Otamendi, Clichy, Fernando, Garcia, Navas, Nolito (Aguero 71), Sane (Sterling 63), Iheanacho
Unused: Gunn, Adarabioyo, Fernandinho, Gundogan
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the match: Maffeo
Holders Manchester City were knocked out of the EFL Cup last night, after a narrow 1-0 defeat to rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. As expected, Pep Guardiola rotated his squad heavily, making nine changes from the side that drew with Southampton at the weekend. Vincent Kompany and Leroy Sane were the only players to retain their places, whilst the likes of Fernando, Jesus Navas and youngsters Aleix Garcia and Pablo Maffeo were drafted in.
Guardiola openly admitted before the game that this competition was the lowest on City's list of priorities, but the young Blues started well and had the better of the opening exchanges. Kelechi Iheanacho had City's best chance in the early stages, heading Navas's cross over from close range. It was a difficult opportunity, but the Nigerian striker will have been disappointed to miss the target completely.
City had the greater share of possession in the first half, with Garcia and Fernando controlling midfield, but failed to create many clear cut opportunities. All too often the final ball was lacking, and City failed to test David De Gea in the United goal. Iheanacho had another chance towards the end of the half having been put through by Fernando, but dithered on the ball and the opportunity was lost.
United, for their part, also laboured in the first 45 minutes, with their only chance of note coming courtesy of Marcus Rashford. As with Iheanacho at the other end, the young striker failed to capitalise and the sides went in level at the break.
Guardiola was forced into a tactical change during the interval, with Kompany being replaced by Aleksandar Kolarov. City's defence, resolute until that point, suddenly looked vulnerable and United took full advantage, ramping up the pressure on the visitors. Willy Caballero did well to tip Pogba's shot onto the post, before Juan Mata gave the hots the lead. City could justifiably feel aggrieved that Ander Herrera's push on Fernando wasn't spotted by referee Dean, but in truth they would get few decisions in their favour on the night.
City failed to react to going a goal behind, and it was a tepid second half performance from Guardiola's side. Even the introduction of Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero had little effect, and it will be of great concern to Guardiola that they didn't manage a single shot on target last night. Worryingly, the Blues have now only scored two goals in the previous five games.
However, the City manager was unrepentant with his team selection after the game, and understandably chose to focus on the positives.
“I am happy with the young players. I have no regrets. We played to win. We have to start to win again and Saturday [at West Bromwich Albion] we have our next chance.
“We will improve,” Guardiola said. “Sometimes it happens in football that the managers don’t win. It is the first time, okay, and hopefully it does not happen again but it is part of our profession, sometimes you win and sometimes lose.
“I have learned in all the 16 games. I know my players and we prefer when you win to when you don’t win but it is part of the process.”