This past Wednesday the 178th Manchester derby took place at Old Trafford in a match which had enormous implications on the outcome of the Premier League title race. Sitting two points behind fellow title contender Liverpool with a game in hand, Manchester City needed a win to keep their title chase alive. Meanwhile, their rivals Manchester United, who lost 4-0 away to Everton the previous weekend, needed a result to keep them in the mix to finish top four and participate in Champions League Football again next season.
The game started brightly with both teams possessing multiple chances. The first real opportunity came to City in the 14th minute when Sterling’s shot from outside the box deflected off Chris Smalling’s foot towards United’s goal; however United’s keeper David De Gea was able to get across in time to stop the ball from ending up in his net. United then went on the attack when moments later midfielder Fred’s long-range effort went wide of City’s goal and after, Paul Pogba played a long ball into City’s penalty area for Jesse Lingard, whose volley went off target.
The end-to-end action continued when in the 17th minute City’s attack gave United trouble as nice build-up play by midfielders İlkay Gündoğan and David Silva, set up Bernardo Silva for a shot from outside the penalty area. The shot was powerful and forced a save out of De Gea before being cleared away by United. Shortly after, United went on the break with Jesse Lingard threading a ball through to striker Marcus Rashford. However, the attack was thwarted by City’s Brazilian keeper, Ederson, who was alert and came out to make a great save by pushing the ball out from under Rashford’s feet and away from the danger area.
United continued the early pressure and their confidence showed through their persistent attacks on City’s goal. At 22 minutes in, Marcus Rashford tried his luck with an effort from very far out, and although it was dipping, the ball sailed over Ederson’s bar much to the City fans’ relief.
As the game went on, City began to show the quality of playing that has placed them in the position to challenge for a title this season. In the 42nd minute after some smooth build-up play between full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko and his teammate David Silva, midfielder Bernardo Silva linked up with Aguero and David Silva in the box before the ball found its way to winger Raheem Sterling. Sterling then used his rapid footwork to find space for a shot from only eight yards out, but the attentive De Gea was able to get down and smother the ball to end any threat of a goal.
City continued to press United up until half-time, with Aguero having an effort go wide. Despite this pressure, the teams went into the break at 0-0 with it all the play for in the second half of this enormous fixture.
The deadlock became unstuck in the 54th minute when Bernardo Silva fired City ahead. The goal came after build-up involving many of City’s players before Gündoğan played the ball out to Silva on the right side of United’s penalty box. Silva then cut inside onto his left foot and took on United defender Luke Shaw before firing a shot towards the bottom right corner of goal which found its way past De Gea. There were rampant celebrations from the City players who knew the potential impact of this goal on the title race. Only moments later City almost doubled their lead to 2-0 after Aguero’s powerful shot from just outside the box beat De Gea but ricocheted off the outside of the right post of United’s goal.
In the 55th minute, United had a fantastic chance to draw level. Rashford drove the ball forward down the right wing and then put a low cross into City’s box aiming to find Jesse Lingard. After an attempted clearance the ball found its way back to Rashford who again put in a cross, this time towards the far post. With Ederson caught out of position, Lingard was waiting at the back post for what looked like a fairly straightforward finish for a player of his quality. However, he completely missed the ball and it rolled out for a City throw-in on the opposite side of the pitch. In Lingard’s defence, City defender Vincent Kompany’s attempted challenge may have put him off, but there is no denying he should have done more with the chance.
City doubled their lead in the 66th minute, making it 2-0 thanks to a goal from substitute Leroy Sané. The goal came from Sterling dribbling the ball from inside his own half to deep inside United’s before playing a lovely ball across the pitch to the left where Sané had plenty of space. Sané had time to take a touch before firing off a left-footed effort which hit David De Gea’s leg and then found the back of the net. The United keeper should have done better to save this effort and keep his side in the game as Sané’s shot was aimed right at the Spaniard.
United attempted to get back into the game and take away something from the match. Lukaku forced a save from Ederson after Rashford played the ball to him in the penalty area, the rebound then fell to Lingard but he was not quick enough to react and it bounced off his leg and out for a goal kick.
City continued to press for more goals as they always do. Bernardo Silva tried to find David Silva in United’s box in the 78th minute but United’s Smalling defended it well and dealt with the threat.
The game remained 2-0 and City continued to dominate until after the final whistle was blown. The City players were ecstatic with this result, placing them top of the table and two points ahead of Liverpool with three relatively straightforward games left to play. For United, this defeat left them in sixth place, three points outside of the top four places with Arsenal above them in fifth and Chelsea in fourth. The result of this derby means City now looks to be the overwhelming favourites to kick Liverpool to the post and win the league, while with Arsenal also losing to Wolves on the same night, the battle for the final top four spots between Chelsea, Arsenal and United looks very intriguing.