The Red Devils edged out their rivals in sky blue in the fourth round of the EFL Cup at Old Trafford, with Juan Mata scoring the decisive goal early in the second half. TheHardTackle discusses five talking points from Wednesday’s derby.
Wednesday’s clash between the two Manchester giants was probably one of the least hyped derbies in recent memories, but it turned out to be an entertaining affair. Pep Guardiola chose to rotate his team for the game, stating before the match that the EFL Cup is at the bottom of Manchester City’s priorities. His counterpart Jose Mourinho, however, opted for a much stronger lineup, looking for a response after last weekend’s humiliating 4-0 loss away to Chelsea.
The match was in the balance going into half-time, but Manchester United started strongly in the second half, pinning Manchester City in their own half. Mourinho’s men were duly rewarded for their dominance, with Juan Mata picking up Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s layoff in the box and slotting it past City keeper Willy Cabellero.
The game was stretched after the opening goal, but Manchester United firmly held their fort as Manchester City struggled to create any decent goal-scoring opportunities. TheHardTackle looks at five talking points from the match:
Ander Herrera’s fine display
When Ander Herrera plays well, Manchester United play well. We have witnessed it before, and we witnessed it again as Herrera dominated the middle of the park, especially in the second half.
When United had the ball, Herrera was heavily involved in the buildup and when United were out of possession, the Spaniard worked hard to recover the ball. The midfielder made the most passes (60) and the most tackles (4) among the Manchester United players (via WhoScored). Unsurprisingly, his all round display earned him from his manager Jose Mourinho.
Pep Guardiola needs to arrest slump in form
Wednesday’s result made it six games without a win for Manchester City, which happens to be Pep Guardiola’s worst run since becoming a manager and the club’s worst run of results since 2008.
In terms of performance, Manchester City weren’t all that bad in the derby, but they failed to create a single good chance. One could argue that it was a weakened City side, but the lack of creation of clear-cut chances has been the primary reason for their recent run of results, even if team performance for some of the games has been fine in this period.
Guardiola needs to address the creativity issue if City are to overcome this slump, with the team having scored only 3 goals in their last 5 matches — an embarrassing stat given the world class attacking personnel in the squad.
Individual players need to show more consistency for Manchester United
When the lineups were announced, one expected the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba to have a field day. After all, the midfielder was up against Fernando and a 19-year-old midfielder in Aleix Garcia, while the striker was up against a recently returned Vincent Kompany. However, despite showing some flashes of brilliance, neither of them could put in an authoritative performance.
Zlatan struggled in the first half, dropping too deep on occasions which meant that United didn’t have many bodies in the opposition penalty box. The Swede often failed to pick out his teammates who were in good positions. Once Kompany was taken off at half-time, Zlatan was much more involved in the game and contributed directly to Mata’s goal.
Pogba’s performance showed, in flashes, why Manchester United broke the bank to sign him, while it also outlined why there is still much scope for improvement. The midfielder made the most dribbles in the game (4), but was also responsible for losing possession (11) more often than anyone else on the pitch (via WhoScored).
The Frenchman forced Willy Caballero into making a fine save from a well-taken shot early in the second half and showed some very good touches in the last 45 mins.
Another player who needs to find more consistency is Luke Shaw, who endured a torrid time against Jesus Navas. The 21-year-old looked a bit over-weight and unfit, which is unsurprising given his recent lack of playing time.
Manchester City’s young duo impress
The biggest positive for Pep Guardiola will undoubtedly be the performances of the two 19-year-olds who started on Wednesday: midfielder Aleix Garcia and right-back Pablo Maffeo.
Aleix Garcia impressed with his abilities on and off the ball. The Spaniard found his teammates with ease, showed composure under pressure, and displayed a willingness to contribute to the defensive side of the game as well. Garcia finished the match with 2 tackles and 2 interceptions to his name, while completing 85 of his 90 passes — the highest of any player on the night (via WhoScored).
Rashford’s ability is 1-vs-1 situations is well known and that is what made Pablo Maffeo’s performance even more impressive. The young full-back neutralised the Englishman on many occasions, and made at least 3 excellent last-ditch challenges to save his team.
Pep Guardiola praised the teenagers for their performances after the game, and Premier League fans are likely to see a lot more of the duo during the course of the season.
The Mkhitaryan situation
There has been much speculation about the future of Bundesliga Player of the Year Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and last night will only have served to add more fuel to the fire.
The former Borussia Dortmund playmaker did not even make it to the bench for United last night, with manager Jose Mourinho continuing to exclude Mkhitaryan from his plans. The Portuguese had previously stated that Mkhitaryan’s lack of fitness was the reason behind his exclusion from the team, but the player is said to be back in training and fit for over a week now, which makes the snub even more surprising.
The situation doesn’t look good for the Armenian, with reports surfacing that the club are prepared to offload the midfielder — possibly as early as the January transfer window.