Due to both teams rivals Liverpool absolutely smashing this season’s League Championship the only thing at stake for both teams were bragging rights for supporters and for United a possible Champions League spot as due to City’s cheating they are being expelled from the next season’s competition.
Going into the game Manchester United had lost their last their last three home games against Manchester City in all competitions – they only lost four against them against them consecutively once previously, between January 1926 and February 1931. On the other hand Manchester City had already lost twice against United this season, losing in the Premier League and League Cup – they had only lost three games against them in previous seasons; 1956-57, 1995-96 and 2009-10.
This season United had gone nine games without defeat in all competitions ahead of this fourth Manchester derby of the season, culminating in a 3-0 win over Derby County on Thursday night. City have also been in good form thanks to a run of five successive victories in four different competitions. Pep Guardiola’s side lifted the EFL Cup last weekend and saw off Sheffield Wednesday for a place in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup during the week.
Solskjaer made two changes to United’s starting line-up on the back of the 1-1 draw with Everton last time out in the Premier League. Williams and fit-again James came into the side in place of the benched pair McTominay and Greenwood as the hosts went for a change of formation. Maguire missed the midweek win at Derby through injury but recovered in time to skipper the United team.
As for City, Kevin De Bruyne was a major fitness doubt for the game due to a shoulder injury and did not recover in time to feature. The other big news from City’s perspective was that Foden started in the Premier League for just the third time this season as one of six changes from the win at Sheffield Wednesday. Ederson, Sterling, Gundogan, Zinchenko, Fernandinho and Foden all returning to the side.
It was a cagey first 11 minutes but the first chance fell for City’s Sterling. Youngster Foden spread the ball to the England International, who controlled it and attempted to curl one into the bottom right-hand corner. However it was at a nice height for De Gea to push aside.
For a small while United started playing like the away side but in the 17th minute they overturned possession 10 yards inside the opposition half and within seconds Fernandes played in James. The angle was unfortunately against the young winger and his shot was easily kept out by Ederson.
As the half way point of the first half approached United had a further chance. Martial did brilliantly to control Williams’ floated pass. He then took the shit early after spotting Ederson off his line, but it was blocked by the body of City defender Otamendi.
A few minutes later another chance fell United’s way. It was Martial who got the better of Fernandinho down the left-hand side and carried the ball into the box. He set himself to pick out the far corner with his curler, but in the end he shot pretty much straight at Ederson.
The deadlock was finally broken on the half hour mark and it was the home side who struck. Recent signing Fernandes chipped a free-kick over City’s wall and Martial, having got away from a couple of players, volleyed past Ederson at the City keeper’s near post. Ederson will wonder exactly how that one squirmed through his grasp.
For the rest of the first half Manchester United were looking very confident and start to dominate. City may had seen more of the ball, but they were doing nothing with it.
Guardiola probably welcomed the half-time whistle because it really wasn’t looking good for his Sky Blues.
The visitors had a little more urgency about them early in the second half and a few minutes after the re-start City had a goal disallowed. Sterling slipped the ball through for Aguero and the striker fired a shot past De Gea, who did not even bother trying to make the save as the offside flag went up. VAR was called into action and it supported the linesman’s decision.
A couple of minutes later there was almost a horror moment for City’s returning keeper Ederson as he allowed a simple pass to squirm under his foot. However he just about redeemed himself by winning a 50-50 challenge with Martial right under the crossbar.
The second half really got lively and in the 56th minute City had a further effort. Foden won a corner off Williams and worked it short. The ball was shifted to Foden around 25 yards from goal and his swerving shot had to be palmed over the crossbar by United keeper De Gea.
Midway through the second half the away team started to turn the screw as they were enjoying some sustained pressure. In the 62nd minute another chance fell their way as Otamendi got his head to a Gundogan corner with the ball flashing just over the bar.
However ten minutes later the home side almost doubled their lead. James put his pace to good use by getting away from Otamendi. He had the option to pull the ball back to Fernandes, but he instead went alone only for Ederson pushed his powerful shot over the crossbar.
Then on the76th minute how Sterling didn’t level things I will never know. Mahrez was played into space down the right and his cross towards Sterling was crying out to be converted. However the former Liverpool striker was unable to connect properly in front of goal and as a result United survived a big scare.
The reminder of normal time was basically lack-lustre City passing, passing, passing but with no way through and he shows just how key their missing De Bruyne is to them. However their final chance fell on the first minute of injury-time. Sterling was given a bit of space on the edge of the box to control Cancelo’s pass and then got a shot away. However like his effort in the first half, it was a very weak shot and De Gea didn’t even need to break stride to keep it out.
Then in the final minute of injury time the home side secured all three points and boy it was an howler with the Manchester City goalkeeper. Fred’s overhit pass run through to Ederson, who picked it up on the right-hand corner of the area and bowled it out. McTominay then run 40 yards to reach the ball first and passed it into an empty net.
The final whistle was then blown and this aggressive performance by United ensured that they had the first league double for a decade over their local rivals and maybe a further sign that the faith shown by their board in manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is starting to get repaid.