The Manchester Derby, or any big derby day fixture for that matter, always bring the potential for a mouth-watering affair that the neutrals usually look forward to more than the die-hard fans. Few, however, have been quite as exciting as the latest edition of the Manchester Derby that took place on Saturday and finished 3-2 to Manchester United.
You may think “why has he waited so long to write this article?” and while I agree that we are quite removed from the game itself, the surrounding fixtures have added another element to Manchester City’s poor week, crashing out of the Champions League after losing 2-1 to Liverpool at home. But first, let’s talk about the derby.
The match started off as quite a routine dismantling by Manchester City of their opposition. Two goals in the first 30 minutes meant that as the two teams went in at half time, every fan at the game or at home was certain City would be winning the Premier League that day.
Vincent Kompany scored the first, leaving Chris Smalling for dead and heading home a goal that so obviously meant so much to the Belgian defender. Smalling came in for a lot of criticism for his mistake, and rightfully so. The defender could, and probably should have tracked Kompany a lot better, and despite his best shirt pulling efforts, Kompany was able to push through and score.
The United defense weren’t able to recover as İlkay Gündoğan doubled the City lead just five minutes later and the scenes at the Etihad were electric. The fans were practically ready for a pitch invasion as the goal went in, and the United faithful had to watch on with glum faces as their team were seemingly capitulating.
After the game, United players came out to explain the half time team talk, with Ashley Young and Ander Herrera saying that tactics weren’t the focal point of Jose Mourinho’s talk. Instead, the players were met with passionate pleas from the senior players in the group, telling them it would be simply unacceptable to be embarrassed that way in the second half.
And it truly was an embarrassment of a first half. Many times this season, United have gone away from home and
underestimated a team in at least one of the two halves of play. The first half against City, however, was probably the worst.
Ashley Young was quoted as saying “remember your responsibilities to the fans and the badge. Show some pride and fight for each other,” to his teammates.
Luckily for them, the half time team talk seemed to work, and United came out in the second half with a refreshed mindset, one that Manchester City simply did not anticipate.
Within 10 minutes, Paul Pogba had pulled one back for the visitors from an excellent build-up of passing that Pep Guardiola himself would have been jealous of.
The goal alone would have gone a long way to silence critics of Pogba before the game as rumors were rampant of his imminent departure, but in typical “big game player” fashion, Pogba doubled his tally and tied the game at 2-2 just two minutes later.
At 2-0 down, you probably wouldn’t have met a Manchester United fan that would be unhappy with the game finishing at 2-2, but exactly an hour after Vincent Kompany opened the scoring for City, Chris Smalling redeemed himself and scored the winner, making it 3-2 and sending the travelling fans behind the goal in to a frenzy.
Obvious, with City’s Premier League title win still an inevitability, the match was more about pride for United than a title race, but the win has definitely redeemed a season that has been marred by criticism of their top players and their manager, despite the fact that they are second in the league.
Of course, being one of the most famous clubs in the world opens you up for heightened criticism, but with Smalling, Pogba and Sanchez being the most heavily criticized at half time, it will come as a delight to Mourinho and United’s fans that they were the best players on the pitch in the second 45.
In the last five weeks, United have beaten Chelsea, Liverpool and now Manchester City, and those wins set up a thrilling end to the season which includes an FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham.
City, who came in to the derby off the back of a devastating loss to Liverpool in the Champions League, stumbled to another loss in the second leg, making their record three defeats in a row, and three home defeats in a month.
The three home defeats mean that Pep Guardiola has now lost as many games at home in a month than Jose Mourinho has in two years with Manchester United, a stat that the Portuguese manager will surely delight in knowing.
Talk of Manchester City being the best Premier League team of all time this year were well and truly scrapped after a dreadful week that may get worse when they face Tottenham this weekend at Wembley.
City can’t win the league at Spurs, but will be hoping to get within one game of the title with a win to snap their three-game losing streak. Tottenham will definitely not go down easy.
Manchester United will welcome the Premier League’s worst team in West Brom to Old Trafford, hoping to keep the pressure on City to succeed in their title run.
Elsewhere, Chelsea travel to Southampton and will be desperate to keep their challenge for the top 4 alive, and West Ham will play Stoke City in just one of many upcoming relegation battles.
See you next week!
Ryan Oldham is a Manchester native and a lifelong supporter of Manchester United. He knows far more about English Premier League football than you do, and therefore was selected to write a weekly update on the most popular professional sports league in the world. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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