Goals from De Bruyne and Iheanacho secure deserved derby win for Guardiola
FA Premier League
Saturday 10 September 2016, 12.30 KO
City: Bravo, Sagna, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernandinho, Silva, De Bruyne (Zabaleta 90), Nolito, Sterling (Sane 60), Iheanacho (Fernando 52)
Unused: Caballero, Navas, Garcia, Clichy
Goals: De Bruyne (15), Iheanacho (34)
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: De Bruyne
City maintained their 100% start to the season with a commanding victory in the 161st Manchester derby at Old Trafford. It is, of course, too early in the season to have any real impact on the title race, but it was a significant statement of intent from Pep Guardiola's side.
Much had been made of the relationship between Guardiola and Jose Mourinho in the build up to the game, but both managers sought to play down their rivalry and exchanged a handshake and quick embrace prior to kick off. At full time, however, there was little question about who had won this particular duel between the old adversaries.
United were simply unable to cope with City's passing and movement in a hugely impressive opening 40 minutes, by which time City led by two goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho. Mourinho had brought in Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in an attempt to stifle City's full backs, but the tactical ploy failed miserably as City dominated possession in the early stages. The Blues' midfield trio of Fernandinho, David Silva and De Bruyne were exceptional, and it was the Belgian who gave City the lead after 15 minutes.
A long ball from Aleksandar Kolarov was flicked on unchallenged by Iheanacho, and De Bruyne nicked ahead of Daley Blind before sending David De Gea the wrong way. It was a wonderfully composed finish from the game's outstanding player, but Mourinho will have been furious with United's inept defending. City deservedly doubled their lead 20 minutes later, when De Bruyne's left foot shot bounced favourably off the upright into Iheanacho's path. It was an easy finish for the Nigerian forward, in for the suspended Sergio Aguero, although he had a nervous glance across at the linesman to check that he was onside. Television replays confirmed that the hapless Blind had played him on.
City's dominance at this stage was such that victory seemed a formality, but United were handed an unlikely lifeline minutes before the break. A seemingly harmless floated free-kick from Wayne Rooney was spilled by Claudio Bravo, making his City debut, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic finished neatly on the volley. It was a calamitous error by the goalkeeper, although John Stones must share the blame as he blocked Bravo's path and prevented him from taking an easy catch. Bravo had started brightly, playing high up the pitch and effectively operating as a sweeper at times, but the mistake seemed to rattle his confidence. A further mix-up with Stones minutes later nearly allowed Ibrahimovic to equalise, but the Swede's weak finish was easily cleared off the line.
Mourinho will have been relieved to still be in the game at half time, and sought to redress City's superiority by introducing Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera for Lingard and Mkhitaryan. United rallied briefly at the start of the second half, but City's defence, led by the imperious Nicolas Otamendi, held firm. Rooney was adamant that United should have been awarded a penalty, when yet more indecision from Bravo resulted in a lunge at United's captain but referee Clattenburg deemed that Bravo won the ball. Rooney was, as always, incensed but arguably could count himself lucky to still be on the pitch at that point as a succession of fouls went unpunished.
Far less compelling were the claims for a penalty when a cross from Antonio Valencia struck Otamendi's arm, but United were increasingly desperate by this stage. Guardiola had introduced Fernando for Iheanacho, and City regained control of the game. The Blues had chances to extend their lead as they looked to hit United on the counter, and De Bruyne was unlucky to see his shot strike the inside of the post with De Gea well beaten. It mattered little in the end, as City held on to secure all three points and ensure that Guardiola won his first Manchester derby.
City now face Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday evening, but Guardiola warned that his new side are still very much a work in progress.
“Until now, in the Premier League it has been okay — but to compete against the best clubs in Europe, in this moment with the way we are playing, we are not able to”, said the City manager.
“We have played, not all of the games, but part of most of the games at a high level, and of course we have to continue. If you ask me whether we are ready to compete in Europe, we are not ready. We create, but in front we need more.
“But, it is just two months together, so we have time to get better.”