Three things we learned: Man City v. Man United

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MANCHESTER — Manchester United beat Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, with the Red Devils ripping apart the reigning Premier League champions on the counter.

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Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial scored the goals for United in the first half as City huffed and puffed but uncharacteristically failed to have a cutting edge in the final third, as Nicolas Otamendi’s late header was no more than a consolation.

Pep Guardiola‘s side are now 14 points off leaders Liverpool, while Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s Man United are five points off the top four and have basically ended the title hopes of their crosstown rivals.

What did we learn from a wild Manchester Derby?


UNITED’S COUNTER ATTACK UNSTOPPABLE

Daniel James, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial were all denied by Ederson in the first 15 minutes and Marcus Rashford was the chief architect of United’s rapid counter attacks. It was a sign of things to come. Rashford dazzled throughout as his pace and killer passes took City’s entire defense out of the game.

United plan to be a counter-attacking team under Solskjaer and this was the perfect example of what they can become under the Norwegian coach. Everything clicked going forward as the movement and pace of Martial, James, Rashford and Lingard was a thing of beauty. United were unstoppable.


VAR CONTROVERSY ONCE AGAIN

For Man United’s penalty kick which led to their first goal VAR worked a treat. Rashford was clipped by Bernardo Silva and replays showed there was clear contact. You can have no arguments that a penalty was awarded, even though a decision going against them seemed to totally put them off their game. Then, for City, they felt even more aggrieved.

For a penalty decision right on half time VAR didn’t work so well…

Fred handled the ball in the box with his outstretched arm while he was on the floor and his hand clearly blocked the path of the ball which would have gone into the box and towards Man City’s attackers. Pep Guardiola and his players were livid, and rightly so, as VAR was put in place for key moments like this. In the first half it delivered, in the second half it did not.


CITY’S TITLE HOPES OVER; AGUERO BADLY MISSED

Man City are now 14 points behind leaders Liverpool and that is pretty much that for their hopes of winning the Premier League title for a third-straight season. All season their defensive injuries and general shoddiness at the back has suggested a title win was unlikely, and that come to the fore on Saturday as Man United ruthlessly exposed their defensive weaknesses.

At the other end, scoring goals is never usually a problem, but they missed all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero. His injury meant that Gabriel Jesus was thrust into the spotlight and quite incredibley the Brazilian striker hasn’t scored in any home game this season. All seven of his goals have come away from the Etihad and his movement was just off as Man United’s center back pairing of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire marshalled him with ease.

Jesus sent a diving header wide from Kevin De Bruyne‘s superb cross in the first half, then David Silva missed a chance off balance at the back post and Riyad Mahrez couldn’t bundle home from a similar position. Usually Aguero finds a way, especially in the big games, and nobody stepped up to fill his shoes on Saturday. City are now probably best set on focusing on winning the UEFA Champions League this season and to finish in the top four.