MANCHESTER — The blue half of Manchester is in heaven.
Manchester City beat Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday in a feisty Manchester derby.
[ RECAP: Man United 1-2 Man City ]
Here’s what we learned from Old Trafford as Pep Guardiola got the better of Jose Mourinho.
MOURINHO OUTFOXES HIMSELF
When the team sheets were announced it raised eyebrows. Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan were starting and the latter was not fully fit. Jose Mourinho left out Juan Mata and Anthony Martial in a major selection surprise. United’s manager had mentioned in the week that Mkhitaryan wasn’t fit for 90 minutes and the Armenian playmaker had a nightmare and was hooked off at half time. Shunted out on the right, Mkhitaryan is much more influential in a central role and looked lost in the hustle and bustle of the derby, being urged by United’s fans to close City’s defense down. Linagrd hardly touched the ball.
At half time Mourinho had seen enough and held his hands up. He brought on Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera and it made a difference but eventually United ran out of ideas as the game wore on. Mourinho outfoxed himself by changing these two wide players up for no real reason and it impacted the balance of United’s midfield. Paul Pogba was a passenger in midfield as he left Marouane Fellaini in his defensive responsibilities and rarely impact the game going forward. The most-expensive player in the world had a day to forgot on the big stage as City’s midfield fluidity looked sharper, quicker and more composed than United’s bulging giants in the middle of the park.
All the build up ahead of this derby had been about the tactical battle between Mourinho and Guardiola. In the second half Guardiola switched things up and brought on Fernando to add an extra man in midfield. John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi dug deep and Leroy Sane looked lightning quick on the break. There’s a real balance and belief about this City team and that extra grit won Guardiola the battle.
In truth, though, Mourinho beat himself before a ball was kicked.
DE BRUYNE THE DIFFERENCE
De Bruyne’s stat line is incredible impressive since he joined Man City a year ago. In 46 games for City he now has 17 goals and 15 assists but the Belgian wizard does much more than that. The main reason City were 2-0 up inside the first 36 minutes was because of his incredible work rate to shut down Marouane Fellaini in United’s midfield. City kept winning the ball back and pinned United back throughout the first half. United’s first pass out of their midfield was often rushed and that was because De Bruyne was often harrying Fellaini, Wayne Rooney and others.
Besides the work he did off the ball, when he had two chances to impact the scoreline he was clinical. De Bruyne latched onto Kelechi Iheanacho‘s flick and made Daley Blind look like a bystander as he raced in on goal and was ice-cool as he gave David De Gea the eyes and slotted home to make it 1-0. He then got free in the 36th minute and hit a snap shot across goal which hit the post and fell into Iheanacho’s path and swept home. 2-0.
In the second half De Bruyne was asked to play centrally in a false nine position which took away some of his impact but he did race clear and hit the inside of the post and the ball then somehow rolled across the line and out.
There’s no doubting that when City need him to come up big the Belgian delivered, again. He will have enjoyed scoring against Mourinho, the man who let him leave Chelsea in 2014. De Bruyne was the difference maker in the derby.
Making his Manchester City and Premier League debut, this is a day Claudio Bravo will want to forget in a hurry.
The vastly experienced Chilean goalkeeper had a nightmare for United’s goal (see above) and he constantly overplayed on the ball, nearly getting caught out in perilous situations and hauling down Lingard in the first half without knowing the offside flag was up. In the second half he lunged in on a tackle with Wayne Rooney which could’ve seen him sent off after a loose touch and he missed another cross late on as the pressure built.
Bravo, 33, arrived from Barcelona amid much fanfare as Guardiola shipped out fans favorite Joe Hart on loan to Torino. On this showing it’s not clear exactly why he did this.
Now, Bravo will improve and he’s been thrown in at the deep end for his debut but the way he constantly took risks may not work in the Premier League. Playing in Chile and Spain throughout his career, this seemed like a huge culture shock to Bravo. He will continue to play out of the back under Guardiola’s system but Bravo looked very shaky when trying to claim the ball in the air and was heckled constantly by the home fans after his mistake to let in Zlatan for United’s opener.
It was a shaky start for City’s new goalkeeper and now he’ll be targeted by every team and opposition fans as chants of “dodgy keeper!” rang down from the stands.