The Manchester derby ended in bitter disappointment for the red half of Manchester, as a dominant first half display from Manchester City saw them hold out for a 1-2 win.
The game was heavily built up by the media as the two best teams in England, and in Manchester, went head to head. There was an added element of drama as the two old enemies, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, did battle for the first time in the Premier League environment.
United started very brightly before Kevin de Bruyne capitalised on a poor mistake from Daley Blind. A promising sight imminently emerged from the United bench though, when Marcus Rashford was seen warming up.
However, with City on the attack again, De Bruyne hit the post, and Kelechi Iheanacho, replacing the suspended Sergio Aguero, reacted fastest to put the ball in the back of the net, with the daydreaming Blind keeping him onside. Zlatan Ibrahimovic replied following a mistake from debutant goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and United were back in the game. Despite pressure from the home side all through the second half, City held out and maintained their unbeaten start to the season.
The first half was an embarrassment for the hosts, as they were completely outclassed physically, technically, and quite honestly, Manchester City seemed far more passionate as well. The two goals, while the first was a good finish from De Bruyne, should not have been conceded; two silly errors costing United a game they so easily could have won.
The talking point before the game was the two changes in the Manchester United team, Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in for Anthony Martial and Juan Mata. Fans were full of excitement following Mkhitaryan’s cameo against Hull and Lingard’s impressive performance in the Community Shield against Leicester. They were both replaced at half time.
Lingard looked completely off the pace after coming back from injury, whilst Mkhitaryan was very nervous and didn’t show why he was so highly rated back in the Bundesliga. The two changes should have worked, but sometimes the performances of his players are out of Mourinho’s hands.
The defence also looked shaky for the first time this season, with Blind making many mistakes and likewise Eric Bailly, although the latter did make many vital interventions during the game as well. Antonio Valencia again was a threat down the wing, with his defensive displays improving constantly, while Luke Shaw was always looking keen to get on the ball.
Paul Pogba had glimpses of brilliance but otherwise had a quiet game, with Marouane Fellaini doing his job well in being a nuisance to the City midfield and defence. Marcus Rashford came on during the game and really added something to the United team, and bar an offside deflection from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, would have brought the equaliser. He will be wondering what he needs to do to start. Ander Herrera, for his part, added a bit of spark to their attack.
Ibrahimovic scored a vital goal – a cracking finish from a difficult angle following the Bravo mistake – however, for the whole second half he took shots from absolutely everywhere with no success and, when provided with promising opportunities, for example from Rashford early on in the second half, he completely skied it.
He tried to take on too much responsibility and to force chances, which is understandable as his team were losing the game, yet a player with his experience really should understand that if you keep knocking away, the chance will come.
Finally, on to the performance of Mark Clattenburg. The 41-year-old is arguably Britain’s top referee, with his arms tattooed with his top achievements as an official. However, along with De Bruyne, he was Manchester City’s best player. He didn’t bat an eye at many a foul against United, including a blatant penalty and straight red card offence for a horrendous two-footed challenge from Bravo on Wayne Rooney in the City penalty area. Later on, he also missed a clear handball from Nicolás Otamendi, following a United cross. As well as this, any time a United player went near a City player, you could be forgiven for expecting a foul – such was his bias towards the visitors. I’m not one to comment heavily on the performance of officials, yet I felt this diabolical display was too much to be ignored.
So, where now for Manchester United? They play Feyenoord in the Europa League on Thursday, and this is a perfect chance to rotate the team, just like Mourinho has promised he would. One defeat, against a very good team, right at the start of the season is not the end of the world. It is disappointing, yes, but they have so much time to grow and improve. They are still a very good side and are still on course to win the Premier League again; it is just slight adjustments in precision and quality that will get them back on their way.
My team to play Feyenoord:
1 David de Gea
24 Timothy Fosu-Mensah
12 Chris Smalling (captain)
3 Eric Bailly
23 Luke Shaw
16 Michael Carrick
21 Ander Herrera
22 Henrikh Mkhitaryan
8 Juan Mata
19 Marcus Rashford
Angus Cross, Pundit Arena