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Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City – 6 Things We Learned

Manchester City took the bragging rights in the first Manchester derby of the season, beating Manchester United 2-1 at Old Trafford on Saturday. Here, we take a look at the six things we learned from the game.

Mourinho got his team selection wrong

The United manager brought in Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for arguably the biggest match of the season so far, in an attempt to counter Pep Guardiola’s tactics of pushing his full-backs infield and it backfired spectacularly in the first 40 minutes. Both men looked off the pace and overawed by the occasion, losing the ball on multiple instances and the Armenian looked unfit having picked up a thigh injury on international duty.

Mkhitaryan and Lingard dashboard courtesy StatsZone.

Mkhitaryan and Lingard dashboard courtesy Stats Zone

The former Borussia Dortmund man is unquestionably a gifted player, but was unable to show that on the big stage and was at fault for City’s opener. He failed to close down Aleksandar Kolarov despite being yelled at by Wayne Rooney, allowing the Serbian to punt the ball upfield for Kelechi Iheanacho to flick on for Kevin de Bruyne’s goal. The pair were lucky to survive the half or they would have been hauled off much sooner.

City look like a Guardiola team

Former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager did not take long before putting his stamp on Manchester City’s play. City’s performance was vibrant, exciting and in perfect accordance with Guardiola’s tactical approach, especially in the first half. While the game became stretched and ragged in the second half, City’s first half display was perhaps the best we have seen in the Premier League this season.

Fernandinho dashboard courtesy Stats Zone

Fernandinho dashboard courtesy Stats Zone

Fernandinho, playing the Sergio Busquets role, dropped between the two central defenders to orchestrate the attack from the back, allowing him to showcase his full potential and achieve a greater contribution to the team than last season. While defending, City’s backline pushed further towards the half line and the pressing from the attacking players left Zlatan Ibrahimovic frustrated and deprived of any service.

Passes in the final third comparison courtesy Stats Zone

Passes in the final third comparison courtesy Stats Zone

In attack, they shifted the ball from left to right, with De Bruyne pulling all the strings alongside David Silva in the final third. Guardiola’s challenge now is to keep that performance up for the entire 90 minutes as it is plainly obvious to see the Spaniard making an instant imprint on his new team and the players completely trusting their manager’s tactics.

De Bruyne steals the show

De Bruyne showed glimpses of his class in the injury-hit 2015/16 season, and on Saturday, the Belgian international was the best player on the pitch by some distance. His position in the pockets between the Manchester United central midfielders and the centre-backs caused havoc. He scored the opener and had a hand in their second, after his angled shot came back off a post, into the path of Iheanacho for the simplest of tap-ins.

De Bruyne chances creates and shots courtesy Stats Zone

De Bruyne chances creates and shots courtesy Stats Zone

De Bruyne was afforded so much freedom by United and took full advantage, punishing the hosts for their slack defending and lack of focus at the back. He should have claimed his second but his low shot struck the inside of David De Gea’s near post in a let-off for United. The former Chelsea man has the potential in him to cement his status as one of Premier League’s best players and if City can keep him fit, he could be the key to Guardiola’s success.

Claudio Bravo

There was plenty of interest on how Bravo would fare on his City debut after Guardiola’s much-debated decision to ship Joe Hart to Torino for him – and the former Barcelona keeper had a poor day, to say the least. The Chilean had little to do in the opening 42 minutes but when he did he made a complete hash of it. His modest height and lack of communication with John Stones gifted Ibrahimovic the goal and left City’s number one rattled.

Fortunately for Bravo, City held on to their slender advantage, but the 33-year-old sweeper keeper had plenty of other nervous moments, gifting the ball to Lingard inside the box shortly before half-time and making a desperate challenge on Wayne Rooney after a heavy touch in his own box in the second half. Aside from that, he looked shaky while in possession. There will be better days, but the early signs suggest he will take time to adapt in the Premier League.

Clattenburg got it wrong

Jose Mourinho is known for blaming the referees for his own team’s failing, but on Saturday, he really had a point. United didn’t deserve anything from the game, but in the second half, they looked likelier to score and it was balanced at 2-1, one decision or a moment of magic could have changed everything. United, however, did not get their decision which they should have.

Bravo failed to control the ball in the penalty area and went recklessly into a tackle on Rooney to win it back with his studs showing. The ball went his way, but illegally. Mark Clattenburg got it wrong. It was, as Mourinho said in his post-match interview, a clear penalty and a red card. United weren’t fortunate enough to get the decision on the day which could have completely turned the game on its head and perhaps in their favour.

Rashford must start

The teenage forward is yet to start under Mourinho, but the outcry for that to change will only have strengthened after this performance. The England U21 international, who scored the winner at Hull City and an hat-trick against Norway U21, came off the bench at half-time, much to the delight of the Old Trafford faithful, and United looked like a completely different side.

Rashford completed more take-ons (1) in his first minute on the pitch than Lingard did in the first half; courtesy Stats Zone.

Rashford completed more take-ons (1) in his first minute on the pitch than Lingard did in the first half; courtesy Stats Zone.

Within minutes he had turned Bacary Sagna inside out to create a chance for Ibrahimovic and his presence caused Guardiola to substitute his own wonderkid in favour of Fernando. After four goals in his last two games, the 18-year-old was bursting with confidence and nearly drew level for United, only to be denied by the faintest of touches by Ibrahimovic who was standing in an offside position.

This article is written by Shantanu Ambekar, you can follow him on Twitter at @ShantanuAmbekar. What are your thoughts? Let us know by dropping a comment via our comments box below. Make sure you follow us on TwitterGoogle+, Instagram and like us on Facebook.

Manchester United fan and Premier League lover. Founder of IntoTheTopCorner.