Manchester United halted their poor run of form with a much-needed 1-0 win against rivals Manchester City on Wednesday night.
José Mourinho and Pep Guardiola have begun to feel the pressure of late, so Juan Mata’s winner ten minutes into the second half will have lifted some of the storm clouds gathered around Old Trafford at least.
However, that is not to suggest that Manchester United put in a perfect performance against their neighbours. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still firmly entrenched in his worst goalscoring form for years, while Paul Pogba continued to show exactly why he is not suited to the advanced number ten role that Mourinho has put him in for the past few matches.
Their performances in particular were the subject of strong criticism from Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher. The former Liverpool defender directed his ire squarely at the high-profile duo despite the EFL Cup victory.
Carragher said of Ibrahimovic:
“I don’t think Zlatan Ibrahimovic has probably had a worse 45 minutes than that in his career [than the first half],
“He’s getting wound up by them [City]. Jose Mourinho has been getting a lot of stick in the last few weeks, the manager always does, but we’re talking about a fella last season who got 50 goals.”
(Quotes via the Mirror)
It was then £89m man Pogba’s turn to feel Carragher’s wrath:
“Pogba’s the most expensive player in the world. If you’ve cost that much money you’ve got to decide big game and do things in the big games.
“It’s non-existent and they’re not playing Man City at home… they’re playing Man City reserves. Let’s be honest about it.
“The game’s there for Manchester United to win and those two players have been non-existent in these last few weeks and they’ve got to produce a lot more.”
The duo improved their performances in the second half, combining for a decent chance only for the striker to be denied by Man City goalkeeper Willy Caballero, but to say that the critics were answered would be a bit of a stretch.
It remains to be seen if Wednesday’s derby victory can reignite a season that had shown signs of wobbling recently, or if this was only an exercise in papering over the cracks ahead of the next problem.
Their next two Premier League matches are against Burnley and Swansea, and with Mourinho’s side already five points behind the top four and a massive tie against Arsenal coming up in November, nothing less than six points from those two games will do.