170th Manchester derby ends in stalemate as defences comes out on top
FA Premier League
Sunday 25 October 2015, 14.05 KO
City: Hart, Sagna, Kompany, Otamendi, Kolarov, Fernando, Fernandinho, Toure (Demichelis 77), De Bruyne, Sterling (Navas 55), Bony (Iheanacho 83)
Unused: Caballero, Zabaleta, Mangala, Roberts
Booked: Fernandinho, Kompany
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
Man of the match: Otamendi
City earned a hard fought point after drawing 0-0 at Old Trafford in the 170th Manchester derby. The result saw City return to the top of the league, but the game was something of anti-climax as the two sides largely cancelled each other out. Manuel Pellegrini will have been the happier manager at the end, as his side were without their two best players in David Silva and Sergio Aguero.
Despite having home advantage, United struggled to impose themselves on the game in the first half and failed to register a single attempt on goal in the opening 45 minutes. It was the first time they done so since 2003/04, when Opta began collecting such data, an ignominous stat for Louis Van Gaal.
Pellegrini opted for a more cautious approach than usual, with Fernando recalled as a holding midfielder and Yaya Toure pushed further forward. Nicolas Otamendi retained his place in City's starting XI at the expense of Eliaquim Mangala, something of a surprise given the Frenchman's much improved form this season.
However, Pellegrini's decision was vindicated as Otamendi put in a man of the match performance alongside Vincent Kompany at the heart of the Blues defence. The Aregentinian centre half almost capped a superb display with a late winner, just failing to connect with Aleksandar Kolarov's free kick by a matter of inches.
A victory would have flattered City, as United shaded the game in the second half. Substitute Jesse Lingard hit the crossbar with the game's best chance, and Joe Hart made a smart save from Chris Smalling late on.
City's best opportunities came during the first period, with Raheem Sterling and Yaya Toure failing to make the most of half-chances. City's attack was somewhat disjointed, with Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Wilfried Bony struggling to impose themselves on the game. How Pellegrini must pine for the return of Aguero and Silva, who would surely add more potency to his forward line.
In the end, both managers seemed content to play for a draw with Marouane Fellaini and Martin Demichelis added to an already congested midfield, and the game fizzled out to its inevitable conclusion. It was something of a disappointment given the pre-match hype ("the first ever £500m derby!"), and the atmosphere inside Old Trafford was strangely subdued for a game of such magnitude. However, Pellegrini was relatively content with a first clean sheet in five league games, and a return to the top of the league table.
He said: “The first half we played better, the same level as United. In the second half we started to lose so many balls, we lost possession of the ball. In that case it’s important to concentrate on defending and not to allow them to create chances, and in that sense we did it well.
“I am satisfied with a point but I don’t like to play in this way. That’s way I say it’s easy to play that way. It’s important to have a point here, another point in the table, but I don’t think it’s the way the team must play.”