Fabian Delph

Three things we learned from the Manchester Derby

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MANCHESTER — The Manchester Derby delivered drama in wintry conditions and it also underlined that this is Manchester City’s Premier League title to lose.

[ MORE: Mourinho calls City “lucky” ]

City beat United 2-1 at Old Trafford at a snowy Old Trafford on Sunday, with Pep Guardiola‘s men setting a new Premier League record for the most consecutive wins in a single season with 14 victories on the spin.

Guardiola leads Mourinho all-time with eight wins, seven draws and just four defeats from their 19 encounters, as United suffered their first defeat at home in 41 games in all competitions.

[ MORE: Pep delighted with derby win ]

This was also the first time they’d lost at home in the Premier League in 24 games, since they lost to Man City (who else!?) last September.

Here’s what we learned from an intense encounter in the Manchester Derby.


CONTRASTING STYLES CLEARER THAN EVER

“Park the bus, park the bus Man United! Playing football the Mourinho way!” sang the Manchester City fans from the away end at Old Trafford.

United did just that with two holding midfielders and long balls up to Romelu Lukaku, while City turned on the style and dominated possession and the tempo of the game.

United will point to Paul Pogba‘s absence through suspension as the main reason for their midfield failing to stake any claim whatsoever on the game, but the gulf in class between the teams during the run of play was incredibly vast. Just as we expected.

The 3-1 win at Arsenal last weekend somewhat papered over the cracks for United who lacked the dynamism in the final third they showed last Saturday, with Lukaku isolated up top without Pogba’s supporting runs.

As for City, their juggernaut continues. Guardiola’s men are the champions elect with a record 14 Premier League wins on the spin and they show no signs of slowing down. Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva may not have been at their fluid best, but they threatened to unlock a stubborn United defense on multiple occasions with Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane constant pests.

To add to their imperious form they’re taking the league by storm with style as “ole’s” rang out from the away end on multiple occasions. In the end, City eased by United in what is likely to be their toughest test of the season. That says it all.


CENTER BACK STILL AN ISSUE FOR CITY

John Stones‘ star is rising further as he sits on the sidelines.

The Man City and England center back pulled his hamstring in the victory at Leicester City last month and in his absence Nicolas Otamendi has stepped in admirably with Vincent Kompany also back full fit.

That said, Otamendi and Kompany had played against Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham with City conceding in each of their last five games and Eliaquim Mangala also looking off the pace as he stepped in at times.

On Sunday a mistake from Otamendi — he was caught out of position on a long ball from Marcos Rojo and couldn’t head clear — led to Fabian Delph mis-controlling and Rashford making it 1-1 right on half time. Kompany came off at half time with Fernandinho slotting into central defense, and then Mangala came on after City went 2-1 up.

Otamendi made amends for his first half mistake with an acrobatic finish to put City 2-1 up, but it’s at the other end where City will see their biggest challenges in continuing their incredible winning run.

It’s hard to pick holes in a team which is 11 points clear atop the table but Guardiola must know he’s at least one center back away from having a truly great team. He has one in Stones, for sure, and may need to acquire another one in January if they’re going to sweep all before them not only in England but in Europe too.


LOW-POINT FOR LUKAKU

Romelu Lukaku had an absolute shocker in Manchester United’s biggest game of the season and Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s shadow is looming larger than ever over the Belgian striker.

When United needed Lukaku most, especially with no Pogba, their big money summer signing faltered.

Lukaku was largely at fault for both of City’s goals as the ball hit him from a corner for the first and David Silva hooked home, then he made an absolute mess of a routine clearance from a free kick which led to Otamendi scoring the winner.

He looked short of confidence when he was set free in attack and although he had no support, the $100 million man was well off the pace and didn’t try to drop deep to get into the game. Lukaku has scored just twice in his last 13 appearances for United and just once in his last eight outings in the Premier League. It showed.

Twice in the second half he was set free but he hammered the ball over on the first break and then dribbled into a defender on his second break. On both occasions moan and groans were loud from the home fans at Old Trafford and to put the icing on the cake he was denied an equalizer late on from inside the six-yard box as Ederson saved superbly when Lukaku should’ve scored.

Zlatan, who came on to partner Lukaku late on against City, will now surely get a run in the team over the busy festive period. If the veteran striker delivers goals, how can Mourinho leave him out of the team? After a red-hot start to life at United, Lukaku has pretty much hit rock bottom.

Right now he’s not a threat in attack and he cost his team dear defensively in the derby.

To Man City go the spoils

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  • Rashford levels Silva opener by half
  • Otamendi pushes City in front
  • Ederson with amazing double stop

David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi gave Manchester City an 11-point table lead with a 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday.

The win is City’s 14th straight league win to start a season, the longest run in Premier League history.

Marcus Rashford scored United’s goal, and the Red Devils finish the day three points ahead of third place Chelsea.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Kyle Walker took a fourth minute yellow for chopping down Ander Herrera.

Man City was on the front foot with expected possession, and both Herrera and Nemanja Matic were in early charge of upsetting the midfield apple cart.

Efforts continued in the City final third, but tame attempts didn’t trouble David De Gea. Gabriel Jesus thought he had something going just inside the 18, but no whistle was blown.

Countering was the play for United, who had a brief moment through the dribble of Anthony Martial moments before Vincent Kompany scythed down Herrera in the United half.

City would break through just before halftime, with David Silva keeping up his fine season by reaching high to chop a loose ball past De Gea. Jesse Lingard missed a header and lost Silva on the play.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Rashford answered in stoppage time, on the doorstep after Nicolas Otamendi’s skimmed header cascaded off Fabian Delph and onto the Mancunian’s foot.

That sent the match to the break at 1-1.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

There were changes at the break:

City went ahead on a clunky clearance of a Kevin De Bruyne free kick, as Romelu Lukaku sent an effort off the back of a teammate and Otamendi chopped the ball out of the air to make it 2-1 just 10 minutes into the second half.

Guardiola removed Gabriel Jesus in favor of another center back, bringing Eliaquim Mangala into the fray to protect the lead.

A cagey game became more so after that, with United wasting a promising free kick won by Lukaku before De Gea made a fine save on De Bruyne.

A second Delph error allowed another chance to Rashford, and Ederson had to get low to deny the youngster’s attempt at a brace.

The corner kick saw Zlatan Ibrahimovic introduced, but Rashford was offside before a second ball could find the mixer.

Ederson made two sensational stops in the 85th minute, the first on Lukaku with his throat and the second  on Juan Mata with his chest. Wow.

De Gea made a tight stop on Bernardo Silva in the final minute of stoppage time.

Man City’s David Silva doubtful for Manchester Derby

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Manchester City could be without a key man for the Manchester Derby this weekend.

David Silva is rated as doubtful for the trip to Old Trafford to face Manchester United on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) according to his manager Pep Guardiola.

Silva, who scored the winning goal for City against West Ham at the weekend to extend their Premier League winning run to 13-straight games, did not travel with the squad for their UEFA Champions League clash with Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine on Wednesday.

Speaking ahead of that game, Guardiola had the following to say.

“David Silva has a little problem – I don’t know whether he will recover for Sunday,” Guardiola said.

If Silva does miss out, it will be a big blow for all-conquering Man City.

The Spanish international leads the Premier League in assists (along with his teammate Kevin De Bruyne) this season with eight so far and he signed a new one-year contract extension last week.

With Paul Pogba suspended for Manchester United for the derby and Silva doubtful, both teams could be without two key players in central midfield.

City have the likes of Bernardo Silva and Fabian Delph who could slot into midfield, while youngster Phil Foden may also be promoted to the bench for the derby.

Guardiola certainly has options if Silva doesn’t make it, but there’s no doubting the diminutive Spaniard has been in sensational form this season for the league leaders and a big reason for their imperious form.

PL preview: Leicester City vs. Man City

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  • Man City unbeaten in the PL (10W-1D-0L)
  • 38 goals scored in 11 games; 16 in their last 4
  • Leicester unbeaten in last 5 games (2W-3D-0L)

It took an early-season managerial change, but Leicester City have managed to turn around another spiraling-out-of-control campaign in recent weeks, only to return from the international break as Pep Guardiola‘s irresistible Manchester City side makes its yearly visit to the King Power Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

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After winning just one of their first eight Premier League games this season, Leicester made the bold decision to fire Craig Shakespeare four months into his tenure as the club’s full-time manager. In came former Southampton boss Claude Puel, who has a win and a draw in his first two games in charge (on the back of a win in Michael Appleton’s lone game as interim manager). With seven points from three games following Shakespeare’s dismissal, the Foxes sit on 13 points and are suddenly up to 12th in the PL table.

A little further up the table — say, the very top by a wide(ning) margin — you’ll find Man City, winners of 15 straight in all competitions (nine in the PL), scorers of 15 more goals than the next closest side, and runaway title favorites just past the quarter mark of the 2017-18 season. This is what Guardiola was hired to do at City, and he’s delivering a year or two ahead of schedule.

The only thing likely to stop City from running away with the title would be a series of injuries and/or health scares felling key figures — the first of which nearly occurred this week, as star striker Sergio Aguero fainted during halftime of Argentina’s friendly against Nigeria. Aguero has since returned to Manchester and been given a “perfect” bill of healthy by the club’s medical staff (see below). City’s new all-time leading goalscorer, Aguero has eight in eight PL games and leads a side currently on pace to score 131 goals this season.

What they’re saying

Claude Puel, on Guardiola and his new job: “He is a great manager, a fantastic manager. His teams keep possession and they counter attack well. They are the best team in Europe in this moment. … It is amazing. I am enjoying it because the feeling of the players is very good. They work with attention and a good focus.”

Pep Guardiola, on Aguero and other injuries: “The doctor says he’s perfect. He was conscious all the time in Argentina and he’s okay. Nothing to be worried about. … I have something in mind to replace (Nicolas) Otamendi. We have (Eliaquim) Mangala, maybe Kompany can come back. Kyle (Walker) can play there. … I don’t know if (Fabian) Delph will able to play because in four sessions this week, he trained two. Hopefully we can recover him, because he is so important.”

INJURIES: Leicester — OUT: Robert Huth (foot); QUESTIONABLE: Vicente Iborra (ankle) | Man City — OUT: Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Raheem Sterling (back), Vincent Kompany (calf), Fabian Delph (calf)

Prediction

While Leicester have seen an uptick in results of late, their defensive record remains spotty, at best, against sides induce far less terror than Man City. The game should set up in Leicester’s favor, though: City will have 70 or so percent of possession, which means more than a few chances to hit them on the counter. There’s a 10 percent chance Leicester get something from this one, and a 90 percent chance City turn them into just another statistic.

Man City 3-0 Burnley: Smooth sailing

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  • Aguero converts early PK
  • Man City’s first PL clean sheet vs. Burnley
  • City equals club record of 11 consecutive victories in all competitions

Sergio Aguero, Nicolas Otamendi, and Leroy Sane scored as Manchester City wore down Burnley for a 3-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The win, coupled with Manchester United’s loss at Huddersfield Town, gives City a five-point lead on United. Burnley slips ninth, with 13 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]  

City was undoubtedly the more threatening side in the first quarter-hour, as expected, with Fabian Delph and Kevin De Bruyne particularly involved in the play.

Burnley backstop Nick Pope made a two-handed punch stop of Bernardo Silva as City kept up its attack.

Bernardo Silva then won a penalty kick for City. After a long delay, often a problem for the taker, Aguero proved immune to the pressure and it was 1-0 to the hosts.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

There wasn’t much to most of the second half, as Burnley rarely looked capable of an equalizer.

David Silva snapped the match to a bit of life when he forced Pope into a 72nd minute save, and an ensuing corner kick saw Otamendi nod home an insurance goal. Sane made it 3-0 within moments.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]