Three things we learned in Manchester City’s derby demolition of Manchester United

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Following Manchester City’s comfortable 3-0 win over Manchester United pointed out plenty of things on Tuesday night.

Most notably, the balance of power in Manchester has shifted seismically towards the Blue half of the city.

From start to finish Manuel Pellegrini’s Man City took the game to United, and their relentless high-pressing and clinical finishing paid off. With this crucial win, City are now second in the league and just three points behind leaders Chelsea with two games in hand.

(MORE: Man United 0-3 Man City: Dzeko’s double hands City derby delight)

City are in the driving seat to win the PL crown, as United’s fans look on longingly from way down seventh as their ‘noisy neighbors’ are making quite the racket once again.

Let’s see exactly what we learned from yet another derby day demolition from City.

  • David Silva’s superb form will give Man City an extra edge in the run-in
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Silva’s pass map n the first half of City’s win over United. The playmaker just kept popping up everywhere. Source: Squawka.

Less than a minute. That’s how long it took for City to take the lead and deflate the electric atmosphere United’s home fans created. David Silva was at the center of Edin Dzeko’s opener as the diminutive Spaniard surged from the edge of the box toward the goal and created havoc. Rafael blocked Silva’s shot but Dzeko followed up to slot it home, as all game long Silva’s first-touch was sensational. United just couldn’t mark him, and the little man kept popping up in spaces behind Dzeko to devastating effect. Away at Hull last weekend just after City had gone down to 10-men, Silva curled in a world-class strike from 30-yards out to help grab a vital three points. He was the fulcrum of the Citizens attack and the heartbeat of their creativity once again on Tuesday. In recent weeks Silva has stepped it up when its really mattered, that’s the sign of a stellar player, and often a season curtailed by niggling injuries the Spanish sensation has regained the form which catapulted City to the PL title back in 2012.

If Silva keeps this form up, City will win the title at a canter this time.

(MORE: David Moyes takes responsibility for ‘disappointing’ derby before walking out of press conference)

  • City’s defensive nous key in next two huge away games

With plenty written about City’s marvelous attacking talents this season — and rightly so after they’ve smashed in 79 goals in 29 games — but City kept their fifth clean sheet in a row in the English top-flight. They haven’t done that since 1915. With the defensive unity looking incredible solid, shielded by the excellent Fernandinho, two big away games against Arsenal this Saturday, and then Liverpool on April 13 will likely determine if the Citizens will win their second PL title. Having Vincent Kompany back at the heart of their defense is key, plus Martin Demichelis has shaken off his nightmare in the FC Barcelona defeat and is now showing his fine pedigree as a defender.

Both full backs are reliable and add impetus going forward, but with trips to Arsenal and Liverpool coming up they have to be content with not having the lions share of possession and defending patiently throughout both matches. If they can shut out those two title challengers, they’ll give themselves one hand on the title.

  • Manchester United’s backbone needs rebuilding
source: Getty Images
City ran rings around United all night long, as new signings Fellaini and Mata continue to underwhelm at Old Trafford.

All season long, when things look to be heading back on track for United they’ve faltered. Once again that was the case, as they’ve now lost 10 times in a single Premier League season for the first-time in club history. Six of those games have been at home, losing all three against their North West rivals Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City without scoring. There’s no way we can dig deep into United’s plethora of problems here, quite frankly I could write a thesis on it. But it’s clear the spine of the side needs rebuilding. Two quality central defenders, a strong holding midfielder and a lively forward who can tear up opposition defenses with pace, something neither Wayne Rooney or RVP possess. With Nemanja Vidic gone and Rio Ferdinand on the way out, we’ve seen time and time again that Phil Jones and Chris Smalling aren’t good enough. In midfield the holding players are aging, Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher, while Tom Cleverley can’t quite cut it when it matters.

David Moyes needs to spend big, but right now after his buys in the last two windows, you have to question whether Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini were panic acquisitions or the right players to fight into United’s age-old philosophy of fast-paced attacking soccer. During the first half when United started to gather some steam, Mata was found on the edge of the box with the ball, but waited an age, then cut back inside and played the ball back to the defense. Their was no offensive urgency. That’s been a huge issue for the Red Devils. They need to find two-way players who can keep the ball and drive forward with it. For too long on Tuesday City were able to keep the ball and pass it around United’s players who were off the pace. United were nowhere near good enough, as the need for reinforcements is clear for all to see.

MLS roundup: ATL roll past Galaxy; RSL survive 10-man Rapids

Photo credit: Real Salt Lake / @RealSaltLake
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A roundup of, plus a few quick thoughts about, all of Saturday’s action from around MLS…

[ MORE: Other MLS Things — The Archive ]

LA Galaxy 0-2 Atlanta UnitedFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Two teams with fantastic attacking talent but very little in terms of a strong, controlling midfield presence — you’d expect a game like that to be wide open with plenty of chances at both ends of the field, and you’d have been right about Atlanta’s 2-0 victory over LA (at least for the opening 45 minutes. The stark difference between the two sides on Saturday? Atlanta’s ability to turn shooting chances into scoring chances, and LA’s inability to do so.

In truth, the chance resulting in the Five Stripes’ opening goal, which also turned out to be the winner, was the scrappiest once of the bunch.

Miguel Almiron was sensational on the night — constantly on the ball in dangerous areas, constantly gliding past one and two white shirts, constantly winning free kicks (and a penalty) in those dangerous areas. Since suffering a 4-0 defeat on opening day, Tata Martino’s side is unbeaten in their last six games (five wins) and moved to within a point of Eastern Conference- and Supporters’ Shield-leading New York City FC.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was rendered completely ineffective and he — dare I say it — was little more than a passenger for the vast majority of Saturday’s game. Jonathan dos Santos picked up an injury during warmups, forcing Baggio Husidic into the starting lineup, and that did LA no favors when it came time to slow Atlanta’s momentum through the center of the field (which was the entire game).

Columbus Crew SC 2-2 New England RevolutionFULL HIGHLIGHTS

If you had New England sitting above Columbus in the standings at any point this season, let alone after eight weeks, please proceed to the cash-out window immediately. Brad Friedel‘s bunch has played some pretty passable, if unexciting, soccer thus far and have picked up points in five of their seven games played. They’ve even won four points from their first three games away from home, which is two-thirds of the way to matching last season’s paltry haul of six.

Saturday’s 2-2 draw in Columbus saw the Revs come from behind twice to secure a well-earned and deserved point. Cristian Penilla has flown under the radar with regard to impact signings of the offseason — the Ecuadorian has two goals, including the stoppage-time equalizer on Saturday, and four assists in his first seven MLS games — and Diego Fagundez appears to have finally been handed the keys to the Revs’ attack with Lee Nguyen banished to the periphery (but still not traded away).

Real Salt Lake 3-0 Colorado RapidsFULL HIGHLIGHTS

Tim Howard was sent off after 20 minutes for handling the ball outside his penalty area — how great is that multi-million-dollar contract looking now? — yet Colorado so nearly held on for an away point against their Rocky Mountain Cup rivals. Alas, RSL scored three times in the final eight minutes of regular and stoppage time, helping the final score to match the lopsided nature of the preceding 60 minutes:

29 shots (10 on target), compared to just 12 (o on target) for Colorado; nearly 71 percent of possession; 571 passes, to just 228. The lopsidedness goes on and on.

Albert Rusnak scored a stunning free kick to complete the scoring, but was still upstaged by Damir Kreilach’s first MLS goal which came just three minutes earlier.

RSL have alternated wins and losses in each of their last six times out, which spells bad news for a suddenly important Friday night trip to Vancouver to face a Whitecaps side that 1) they beat at home earlier this month, and 2) has lost three straight, by a combined score of 10-1.

Elsewhere in MLS

Sporting KC 6-0 Vancouver Whitecaps — FULL RECAP
Montreal Impact 3-5 Los Angeles FC — FULL RECAP
Houston Dynamo 5-1 Toronto FC
Orlando City SC 3-2 San Jose Earthquakes
FC Dallas 2-0 Philadelphia Union

Bundesliga wrap: Relegation playoff race stays tight

Christian Charisius/dpa via AP
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With three matches remaining for all 18 Bundesliga clubs, there’s clarity at the very top and bottom but plenty to sort in the races to qualify for Europe and avoid the relegation playoff.

[ RECAP: Man City 5-0 Swans ]

We focus on the latter here, with all three teams on 30 points losing away from home this weekend, including one to the 17th place side in Germany.

Hamburg 1-0 Freiburg

Lewis Holtby scored a 54th minute goal to keep the hosts’ slim survival hopes alive, and USMNT forward Bobby Wood got into the match for the final 23 minutes as Hamburg scooped up a rare win.

Augsburg 2-0 Mainz

The visitors had more of the ball but couldn’t rebound from a 29th minute Michael Gregoritsch goal, allowing Alfred Finnbogason to seal the result in stoppage time.

Borussia Monchengladbach 3-0 Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg has a hefty edge on Mainz and Freiburg in terms of goal differential, but won’t be feeling too confident after watching Lars Stindl, Raffael, and Christoph Kramer all score before halftime.

Elsewhere
RB Leipzig 2-5 Hoffenheim
Eintracht Frankfurt 0-3 Hertha Berlin
Stuttgart 2-0 Werder Bremen
Hannover 96 0-3 Bayern Munich
Borussia Dortmund 4-0 Bayer Leverkusen
Koln 2-2 Schalke — USMNT’s McKennie goes 90

STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Bayern Munich 31 25 3 3 84 22 62 13-2-0 12-1-3 78
 FC Schalke 04 31 16 8 7 49 35 14 9-4-2 7-4-5 56
 Borussia Dortmund 31 15 9 7 61 41 20 9-4-3 6-5-4 54
 Bayer Leverkusen 31 14 9 8 55 41 14 7-5-3 7-4-5 51
 1899 Hoffenheim 31 13 10 8 60 44 16 9-4-2 4-6-6 49
 RB Leipzig 31 13 8 10 47 47 0 8-4-4 5-4-6 47
 Eintracht Frankfurt 31 13 7 11 41 40 1 7-4-5 6-3-6 46
 Mönchengladbach 31 12 7 12 42 48 -6 8-4-4 4-3-8 43
 Hertha BSC Berlin 31 10 12 9 38 35 3 5-6-4 5-6-5 42
 VfB Stuttgart 31 12 6 13 29 35 -6 9-4-3 3-2-10 42
 FC Augsburg 31 10 10 11 40 40 0 6-4-6 4-6-5 40
 Werder Bremen 31 9 10 12 34 38 -4 6-5-4 3-5-8 37
 Hannover 96 31 9 9 13 38 47 -9 7-3-6 2-6-7 36
 VfL Wolfsburg 31 5 15 11 30 40 -10 2-8-5 3-7-6 30
 FSV Mainz 05 31 7 9 15 32 49 -17 6-3-6 1-6-9 30
 SC Freiburg 31 6 12 13 26 51 -25 5-6-4 1-6-9 30
 Hamburger SV 31 6 7 18 24 48 -24 5-4-7 1-3-11 25
 1. FC Köln 31 5 7 19 31 60 -29 3-5-8 2-2-11 22

Pep celebrates another historic Man City performance

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Pep Guardiola was thrilled with his club’s response to sealing the Premier League title: More dominance.

[ RECAP: Man City 5-0 Swans ]

Man City battered Swansea City 5-0 at the Etihad Stadium on the strength of goals from five different players.

“From the first minute to the last one, we played what we have shown in the season,” Guardiola said on NBCSN after the match. “(We scored) a lot of goals and we didn’t concede. We play to keep improving our game here and for the next season.”

Guardiola could hardly differentiate between the club’s stylish Sunday goals, saying, “The first one, the second one, of course the third one. … The Yaya pass was amazing. All the goals were so good.”

And he was also pleased with the support from the Etihad Stadium crowd, though he admits he was grateful to escape before the City faithful stormed the pitch.

Guardiola said he thinks the supporters are still behind their team despite the decisive UEFA Champions League loss to Liverpool because of how hard City plays week-in and week-out.

“That’s happened because they know that we are not liars in the way we want to play,” he said. “They know that we tried our best from the beginning to the end. We knew from the beginning how happy they were.”

Conte relishing renewal of Mourinho rivalry

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LONDON —  Antonio Conte versus Jose Mourinho. Chelsea versus Manchester United.

The FA Cup final on May 19 will be some showdown between two Premier League giants as Chelsea breezed past Southampton 2-0 in their semifinal at Wembley on Sunday.

Conte against Mourinho is a battle which has become increasingly feisty over the past two seasons as they’ve had public spats and insulted one another.

Speaking after the game, Conte was asked about his relationship with Mourinho and potential fireworks on the sidelines, as well as on the pitch, during the final.

“With Jose [Mourinho], we have clarified the situation and that is the most important thing. There is not a problem between him and I,” Conte said. “I think this is a final between two great teams. In my mind I can tell you last season we arrived as favorites against Arsenal. I think in this season season we are not arriving as favorites but as you know very well, last season we lost the cup.”

Conte then revealed he respects Mourinho despite the words the two had earlier this season.

The Italian coach responded to Mourinho’s comments about him, and other PL managers, acting like “clowns” on the sidelines by saying Mourinho was a “fake, little man” as United’s manager also hit out and made a remark about Conte’s involvement in a previous match-fixing investigation.

“We are talking about two managers with a strong character and about two winners and when your mind, your heart, your blood and there is the will to win, for sure we want to try to win this trophy,” Conte said. “The same way Manchester United wants to achieve this. I have great respect for United’s story, for Mourinho’s story. I think they have the same respect for Chelsea’s story and my story.”

Let’s see if that respect is on show during what should be a fantastic final next month as it could well be Conte’s final game in charge of Chelsea.