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Four things from the Manchester Derby

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Three more wins.

That’s all Manchester City needs to guarantee a second-straight Premier League title under Pep Guardiola following a 2-0 defeat of Manchester United on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 0-2 Man City ]

How did City get there? A gritty first half stepped aside for a clear gulf in class.

That pregame fouling banter was more than a subplot

On Tuesday, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed that City is a kicking foul machine to limit counter attacks and Pep Guardiola responded by, and I’m paraphrasing, “We aren’t, but let’s talk after the game, bruh.”

Well, City snapped into those tackles with a little more vigor on Wednesday, willing to take yellow cards in exchange for some angry staredowns with United and its bench.

Sometimes the Manchester Derby doesn’t get the true derby vibe because neither side is known for snapping into the other with tackles, but Vincent Kompany‘s NHL-style open-ice hit to earn a first half yellow served notice that the physical play wasn’t going away.

Gundogan steps up at both ends, helps Bernardo open scoring

German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan was not at his best when City fell to Spurs in the UEFA Champions League, but he was versatile and vigorous on Wednesday at Old Trafford.

Neither David De Gea nor Luke Shaw covered themselves in glory on Bernardo Silva‘s opener, but Gundogan cued it up with a tougher-than-it-looks pass to the right side of the 18.

And with key piece Fernandinho on the bench with injury, Gundogan put forth a strong performance as a combination holding/defensive midfielder.

Zinchenko as Pep’s safer Sane

Follow me here: Twenty-two year old Oleksandr Zinchenko is not the elite-level threat presented by an in-form Leroy Sane, but he doesn’t have to be when Pep Guardiola wants to play it a little safe.

Sane attacking from the left was the key to Guardiola’s 2017-18 masterpiece, but the winger has been a less important piece given the MVP-level season of Raheem Sterling.

A capable center midfielder turned left back, what Zinchenko gives Guardiola is a relentless engine up-and-down the left who can dribble to start plays and pass as well as most on the pitch.

Just look at the matches when Zinchenko has not been available to Guardiola and witness the struggles at left back. The Ukrainian was linked with a move away from the Etihad before the season, but it seems more likely he’ll be choice A for Pep moving forward.

Pogba not enough, Rashford still stuck in rut

Both Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford are remarkable talents, but neither delivered on Wednesday relative to ability.

Pogba hit a delightful pass that could’ve been an assist if Jesse Lingard has his legs correct, and also won a few tasty free kicks, but was not the world-class talent we’ve seen so many times.

And Rashford will be a fine forward in the Premier League for a long time, but was again not the consistent force we’ve seen Romelu Lukaku be more often. Rashford has to get that experience to get there, but this was a big spot for him and he was not able to deliver the goods.

Extra things

— Raheem Sterling’s assist on the Leroy Sane insurance goal is a perfect illustration of how much he’s grown as a player. He saw the pass before we saw it on television, and still waiting that extra moment to give Sane time and the perfect weight. He’s my Player of the Year if City wins the title (Otherwise, Virgil Van Dijk).

— Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made a good tactical move out of halftime to harry Man City in possession near the halfway line, but never found an answer to the introduction of Sane and Gundogan’s more than capable answer to Fernandinho’s injury.

— Jesse Lingard could’ve scored a handful of goals but his technical skills didn’t reward his utility and intelligence. He’ll sleep poorly tonight.

Man City works Man Utd, 3 wins from defending title (video)

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  • De Gea makes 1st half saves
  • Bernardo opens scoring from Gundogan
  • Sterling cues up Sane for insurance goal
  • City back atop Premier League
  • First City derby sweep since 2013-14

Manchester City took its latest step toward defending its Premier League title with a controlling 2-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane scored for City, who has one more point than Liverpool with three matches each to play this season.

It’s United seventh loss in its last nine matches, as the Red Devils sit two points back of fourth place Chelsea.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The first goal was nearly an o.g., as Raheem Sterling‘s low pass was deflected by Chris Smalling and collected by David De Gea.

Fred then smashed a left-footed arrow wide of the far post from range, and Lingard lunged onto the end of a terrific Paul Pogba pass. The ball sailed a bit wide of the frame.

Marcus Rashford was injured after a wild minute of play at both ends, with Bernardo Silva saved by De Gea and an offside Rashford taken out by Ederson.

After a strong spell for United, it was De Gea to the rescue as Oleksandr Zinchenko led a quick-passing sequence that finished with a save from the Spaniard.

Sergio Aguero dragged an 18-yard shot well wide following a terrific takeaway by Ilkay Gundogan.

The German was felled in the second minute of stoppage time, and replays showed that Lingard was lucky to avoid a yellow card and maybe worse.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A slightly-hobbled Fernandinho was removed in the 51st minute, with Leroy Sane entering and Gundogan dropping a little deeper.

Bernardo put City ahead in the 54th minute, taking a step to his left and sweeping a low shot across his body and past a diving De Gea.

Tails up, City nearly had it 2-0 when Aguero ripped a curler wide of the far post from 20 yards.

Out of nothing, Lingard missed a bouncing but easy chance to make it 1-1 and then mishit a pass moments later.

Pogba earned a dangerous free kick when Bernardo fouled him atop the arc in the 62nd minute. The Frenchman hit the wall.

Four minutes later, it was 2-0 City when Sterling waited an extra moment to put a perfect pass onto the path of Sane. Game over, largely.

Watch Live: Tottenham-Brighton, Watford-Southampton

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Two Premier League matches with European implications take the field on this Tuesday afternoon as Tottenham hosts Brighton & Hove Albion while Watford welcomes Southampton to Vicarage Road.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE HERE

Spurs will look to rebuild its lead in the race for the Champions League places in the table’s top four. With Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United all neck-and-neck vying for two spots, the other 3 teams all dropped points this round, leaving Tottenham with a brilliant opportunity to gain ground in third. They’ll go against a desperate 17th-placed Brighton, fighting for its life at the bottom of the table. The Seagulls sit as the last team safe, three points above Cardiff City looking for any kind of a result in a tough road matchup to build the lead over the drop to two games.

Watford, meanwhile, will look to keep pace with Everton in the race for the final Europa League position. The Hornets could guarantee themselves a spot in Europe should they finish seventh, knowing that they would qualify either via the FA Cup or their position in the table. They currently sit eighth, level on points with the Toffees, but back on goal differential. A win or draw against Southampton would restore the slim lead over a red-hot Everton side that is finishing the season strong and pressuring Watford for that final European spot. Southampton sits in 16th on 36 points, five above the relegation zone, and a win today would all but ensure Premier League survival.


Tottenham Hotspur v. Brighton & Hove Albion — 2:45 p.m. ET, NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Tottenham: Lloris, Trippier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Rose, Wanyama, Eriksen, Dele, Son, Lucas, Llorente.
Bench: Gazzaniga, Davies, Foyth, Sanchez, Dier, Skipp, Janssen.

Brighton: Ryan, Montoya, Duffy, Dunk, Bernardo, Stephens, Bissouma, Gross, Jahanbakhsh, Andone, Locadia.
Bench: Button, Burn, Bong, Balogun, Kayal, March, Murray.


Watford v. Southampton — 2:45 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

Watford: Foster, Janmaat, Cathcart, Kabasele, Masina, Capoue, Doucoure, Hughes, Deulofeu, Pereyra, Gray.
Bench: Gomes, Britos, Mariappa, Success, Femena, Chalobah, Sema.

Southampton: Gunn, Bertrand, Bednarek, Yoshida, Stephens, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Armstrong, Ward-Prowse, Redmond, Long.
Bench: Forster, Vallery, Ramsay, Lemina, Sims, Ings, Austin.

Watch Live: Everton v. Manchester United

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Romelu Lukaku and Manchester United face familiar foes Everton at 8:30 a.m. ET on Sunday at Goodison Park (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Richarlison will try to lead Everton into David De Gea‘s goal, while former Manchester United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin hopes to stymy former Toffees star Lukaku.

LINEUPS

Everton: Pickford, Digne, Zouma, Keane, Coleman, Gueye, Schneiderlin, Bernard, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Stekelenburg, Jagielka, Walcott, Tosun, McCarthy, Davies, Lookman.

Manchester United: De Gea, Lindelof, Smalling, Jones, Dalot, Matic, Fred, Pogba, Rashford, Martial, Lukaku. Subs: Romero, Young, Andreas, Lingard, Mata, McTominay.

Player ratings from Man City 1-0 Spurs

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The goal were scarce, but Man City and Tottenham Hotspur went on with their ability to entertain in a bounce back win for City at the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: Match recap | ]

A flop from either would’ve been understandable given the 7-goal thriller at midweek, but both provided fine accounts of themselves as Phil Foden was the match-winner.


Manchester City

Ederson:  9 – *Man of the Match* here was plenty of luck in his thwarting of Lucas Moura‘s late deflected strike, but the Brazilian will enjoy a clean sheet following Wednesday’s second leg.

Kyle Walker: 6 – Would VAR have him conceding a second half penalty for handball?

John Stones: 6 – Not terrific, though his partial block that led to Ederson’s last big save was bigger than we realize.

Aymeric Laporte: 7 – A notable error between Laporte and Stones late takes this down a point, but he was huge along with Ederson in the early stages.

Oleksandr Zinchenko: 7 – Is City in the UEFA Champions League semifinal with a healthy Zinchenko in place of Mendy, Delph, et. al.

Kevin De Bruyne (Off 38′): N/A – His injury will be alarming for City, given recurring knee troubles this season.

Ilkay Gundogan: 6 – An unspectacular display as time ticks down on his career at City.

Phil Foden: 8 – The fifth-minute header could hardly have been a more important first Premier League goal.

Bernardo Silva: 8 – A delightful dribble and cross to the back post set up the opener, as the Portuguese playmaker continues a fine season.

Sergio Aguero (Off 66′): 7 – Perhaps a bit quieter than usual, but his headed assist was what City needed early at the Etihad.

Raheem Sterling: 7 – Absolutely in the discussion for Premier League Player of the Season, and has been switched on from moment one.

Subs
Fernandinho (On 38′): 7 – Easy to applaud anyone who comes on for an hour off the bench and doesn’t miss a beat. Broke up some serious Spurs threats.
Leroy Sane (On 66′): 7 – Short spell, but effective. Should’ve collected an assist for his set-up of Sterling

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Tottenham

Paulo Gazzaniga:  7 – Solid enough and made a great point-blank save in the second half from Sterling.

Juan Foyth: 7 – A little lost at right back early on, but worked hard and made some important tackles against Sterling and improved as the game went on.

Davinson Sanchez: 6 – See above. Solid on his return to the starting lineup. Maybe could have done better on the goal as Aguero peeled off him.

Toby Alderweireld: 7 – As dependable as ever. Good block from Aguero in the second half, which had a hint of handball, but the Belgian knew nothing about it.

Jan Vertonghen: 7 – Dominant display and tried his best to get Spurs moving forward when he could.

Ben Davies: 6 – Struggled to cope with Bernardo Silva, but then again most defenders have this season.

Eric Dier: 5 – Has been out with injury for a while, and looked rusty on his return to central midfield.

Christian Eriksen: 7 – Some lovely balls forward for Son, and he was denied by Ederson in the first half when he should have probably scored.

Dele Alli: 6 – A few majestic flicks in the first half, and appealed for a penalty kick on Kyle Walker. Looked a little jaded, which is understandable.

Lucas Moura: 7 – Hurried and chased all game long, and nearly got in to score in the second half but Ederson denied him.

Heung-Min Son: 6 – Another sharp display, but will be disappointed he didn’t score after having three big chances in the first half. Led Spurs’ charge on the counter attack.

Subs
Danny Rose: 6 – Did okay and brought his usual energy to the left back position.
Victor Wanyama: 5 – Booked. Did his best to provide a better shield than Dier in front of the Spurs defense.
Fernando Llorente: 5 – Hardly touched the ball in his brief cameo on the pitch. No hip/arm touches today…