Three things we learned after a fiery Manchester derby

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MANCHESTER — Following Manchester City’s 1-0 win over Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, one thing’s clear to everyone: this rivalry has lost none of its passion.

Chris Smalling’s red card may have altered the course of the match, but the game was still gripping as City rule Manchester for the fourth-straight time in the Premier League.

Here’s three things we learned as the Red Devils battled hard but left the Etihad empty-handed.

Getting Di Maria on the ball remains an issue

It happened against Chelsea last week, and it happened again against City. Every single time Angel Di Maria got on the ball, he either had Pablo Zabaleta or Vincent Kompany on his heels. Teams know Di Maria is United’s danger man as he showed copiously earlier in the season. But now he’s a marked man and Di Maria’s struggling to shake off the shackles other teams are clamping to his petite and wonderfully talented ankles. In the second half when United were down to 10-men Di Maria strangely saw more of the ball. But apart from the Argentine attacker having a low drilled shot tipped wide by Joe Hart, he wasted several set pieces situations and look incredibly tired as his lapse defending helped City set up the game-winning moment. Di Maria’s honeymoon period in England is officially over.

One-dimensional City relying too much on Aguero

“Give him the rock, he’s red-hot…” That phrase would apply to Sergio Aguero of late, as City’s main man has 11 goals in his last 12 appearances. Smoking hot. The Argentine forward pounced in the 63rd minute as he lost his marker perfectly by drifting towards the penalty spot when Gael Clichy hit the byline, then sparked into life and chipped home. City fed the Argentine whenever they got the chance and he could have won at least two penalty kicks on his own. Instead, Aguero took matters into his own hands as sumptuous piece of movement and a cool finish decided a tight derby. Aguero’s predatory instincts aside, City are still struggling and looking disjointed in attack as their main man got them out of jail after two-straight defeats leading into this match, and another less than inspiring display in the derby on Sunday.

United’s bad luck at the back, poor finishing, continues

Louis van Gaal’s side played 51 minutes of Sunday’s derby with one arm tied behind their back, as Smalling was stupidly sent off in the first half for two yellows. When he walked past United’s bench on his way to the locker room, both Ryan Giggs and Louis van Gaal couldn’t even look at him. Smalling had dropped his team in it after an even start to the derby and United never really recovered. Michael Carrick (a midfielder by trade) came on to play center back and soon after Marcos Rojo was carried off with a nasty looking shoulder injury, joining Phil Jones and Jonny Evans on the treatment table. Young Paddy McNair came on as United’s makeshift defense held firm until Aguero’s moment of class.

As for the finishing, Marouane Fellaini missed two great chances to score with headers, Wayne Rooney ran through four players, nutmegged Kompany but then decided to pass to Di Maria who saw his shot well-saved by Joe Hart. United kept going despite being down to 10-men but van Gaal will be ruining poor finishing from the Red Devils, just like he did after their draw with Chelsea last week. A shortage at the back and lack of confidence in front of goal is becoming a real worry for United.