This was a Manchester mauling; a derby mis-match that confirmed the gap between these two sides. Yes, United were still in it until the 86th minute when substitute Ilkay Gundogan scored City’s third goal but the nature of it merely highlighted the gulf. There were 44 passes leading up to the goal and every City player was involved. United did not get close and, as with the two other goals they conceded, were at fault with Nemanja Matic failing to track Gundogan as he ran onto Bernardo Silva’s pass before stroking the ball home from close-range past a helpless David De Gea.
The goal confirmed the result which sent City back to the top of the league by two points and showed why they remain on course to become the first team to retain the title since United in 2009. Liverpool have made their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign, Tottenham Hotspur have made their best-ever start to a Premier League campaign and, at Chelsea, Maurizio Sarri has made the best ever start of any manager new to the Premier League and yet there is City. Still top. They have already played four of the five others in the ‘Big Six’ and lost to none of them.
After a week of Football Leaks, controversy, understandable questioning of City’s cynical approach and damning headlines they also condemned their city rivals to further negativity. Even United’s goal difference is now in the red. This was poor from them with manager Jose Mourinho, who had a miserable 300th game in the Premier League, later lamenting that he had been denied the chance to bring on Marouane Fellaini as a super-sub because he had to start with him as Paul Pogba was not fit.
What about his £52million midfielder Fred? Has it come to this? It was an odd argument with Mourinho then dismissing “the way people who don’t understand football go for stats” but those stats are very ugly. United are seven points off fourth-placed Spurs and so even finishing in the top four and qualifying for the Champions League is looking like a struggle.
But the biggest indictment of all is that after a dozen league games United have that negative goal difference. This is Manchester United! This is Jose Mourinho! Against their minus one, City have a goal difference of plus 31. That is an extraordinary comparison between the two teams.
There was another stat that hurt. United managed to string just five passes together in the first 10 minutes – just five - and claimed just 13 per cent possession. Bizarrely Ander Herrera was detailed to man-mark David Silva and Matic was detailed to do the same with Bernardo. So both City players just dragged their opponents wide. It left Fellaini free and United were all over the place as Fernandinho dominated him and John Stones, who has forged such an accomplished defensive partnership with Aymeric Laporte, stepped into midfield. In truth, City did not even play that well in the first-half and certainly not after they took the lead.
For the opening goal, United were sliced apart with Sterling, under no pressure, allowed to centre with Luke Shaw letting the ball run through to Bernardo who half-volleyed back across the penalty area. Sergio Aguero tried to reach it and was pulled back by Chris Smalling but it broke to David Silva who steadied himself and shot high into the net off De Gea’s outstretched arm.
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