Pep Guardiola managed his first victory over Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in a match which saw the men in blue frustrate the men in red for the majority of the 90 minutes.
Yet again, it was Manchester City who scored a routine early-first half goal via David Silva, who smashed it into the roof of the net via a lay-off from Bernardo Silva. Raheem Sterling brilliantly picked out Bernardo Silva, who ran past Luke Shaw and laid it off for his namesake, who, with utmost composure smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
This was the Spaniard’s third goal in three consecutive home games. Chances were few and far for City after that, as Manchester United saw more of the ball but lacked the flair and aggression to have a go at the City defence as Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were left continuously frustrated.
But the most uncomfortable was Ander Herrera, who found himself lost on continuous occasions, callously gifting City possession several times. Although with recent past on United’s side, coming back from a goal down in each of their previous two fixtures and also winning the derby on the same ground after coming back from two goals, they went into the half time break with a fighting chance.
Alas, less than two minutes into the second half, it was Sergio Aguero who made it two for City. A brilliant one-two between Riyad Mahrez and Aguero released the latter into free, albeit tight space. But with the Argentine, you really can’t take a chance, who, sporting a conspicuous silver hairdo, smashed the ball past the hands of David De Gea into the net.
Jose Mourinho responded soon and got in Romelu Lukaku to replace Jesse Lingard ten minutes later. It didn’t take long at all for Lukaku to make an impact, as he was released into space and ran to control the ball but was needlessly bought down by Ederson, who gave away a second penalty in two Premier League games. Anthony Martial slotted the ball home to make it 2-1 and suddenly it was a battle of two teams again, with the Belgian centre-forward registering an assist without having a touch of the ball.
City get the job done
It was Guardiola's turn to respond now with Leroy Sane being introduced in place of Mahrez to offer some pace to the City attack which had slowed down due to United’s increasing attacking pressure. And he made a difference, creating space for himself and players around him as they created more chances to their name. Manchester City, now much more relaxed and with possession in their grasp, calmly passed around the ball, building it up into an attacking move which resulted in the much-needed third goal for City by substitute Ilkay Gundogan who finished the game off.
The German central midfielder brilliantly controlled the ball and put it past De Gea, completing a 44-pass move. The game ended with the Sterling-Sane duo toying around the Manchester United defence, with the former showboating his way to full time, much to the exasperation of Juan Mata and even Guardiola after full-time. But all in all, it was another happy day for Manchester City as the fans waved the sky blue flags and applauded the players off the pitch, looking at the future with bright optimism as they led their way in the Premier League, still unbeaten, and still looking for a challenge.
There’s no place like home
The Etihad has become a fortress lately. Not that it wasn’t one already, but barely have teams come and made a dent in this City team when playing at the Etihad.
Since the previous Manchester derby, City have taken 28 league points from a possible 30, scoring 35 in the process and conceding just five goals. This includes scoring 22 goals in the last handful of games. It’s home delight for City’s old guns, Aguero and Silva, too. The former has been involved in an enormous 23 goals in his last 14 home matches, scoring 18 and assisting five along the way. The Spaniard also pitched in with his third in the last three home games.
Chances are extra preparation is needed if your team is facing Guardiola's men at the Etihad any time soon. This was also the first time Manchester City won the derby at home since 2014 when Aguero scored the lone goal for City that day.
A red-letter day for the Reds
As the blue side of Manchester party into the night, times are desperate for the Red Devils. Lamenting in 8th place, with a negative goal difference after 12 games, and already 12 points behind the league leaders, long gone are the days of utter dominance and the enjoyable style of football United have been known for.
All three zones of United’s formation are proven liabilities lately. With or without Paul Pogba, the attacking flair from the United side is heavily lacking, and it was very evident on Sunday. Despite a pacey, talented and young duo in Martial and Marcus Rashford up front for United, they couldn’t click and were left frustrated at most times. Except for the penalty, which was more of Ederson’s fault.
Even Lukaku didn’t bring much to the table, whose goal drought continues, having last scored in September.
The middle of the park isn’t satisfactory either. With the exception of Marouane Fellaini who is good in the air and at keeping the ball, but there is nothing else to offer. Nemanja Matic seems like a mere spectator, was often caught out by the blistering pace of the City game, struggling to keep up. Ander Herrera almost made matters worse for himself and for the team on not one, but three glaring occasions, either passing the ball straight to a City player in a good position or unable to cover the ball and getting snatched off.
And the defence has been equally incompetent, which has been the case for most of Mourinho’s men this season. Manchester United have conceded first in seven of their 12 Premier League games so far and have conceded in the first 20 minutes in six of the last nine games this season. And doing the same against City, who love an early goal as a base for their win, is inexcusable. The downward spiral continues as Manchester United have just one clean sheet to their name this season, only above Fulham with zero clean sheets. A lot of improvement is needed.
Whether it's Mourinho’s tactics, or the players' incompetence and mistakes, or a long run of gloomy form - it's time for United to look back at their mistakes in retrospect and come back stronger.
Plenty of games have ended up with a fighting comeback but expecting one in every game after committing errors is a big ask, especially against a team like Manchester City’s calibre.
Guardiola's words in reference to title hopes were, "It is November so we haven't even finished the first round. A lot can happen in football. We are scoring a lot of goals and creating a lot. It is important that the players come back from the international break fit”.
Manchester City continue their title aspirations against the Hammers in the London Stadium, managed by former boss Manuel Pellegrini, while Manchester United look to start a run of improvement against Crystal Palace in Old Trafford after the international break.