Manchester City and Manchester United played out a goalless, but an entertaining draw at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday.
The final Manchester derby of the season provided no goals, but no lack of suspense either, as the two cross-town rivals played out a thrilling game from start to the finish. There were a number of heated moments and the team in Red narrowly survived a late City onslaught.
Barring Chelsea and Spurs, no other team is guaranteed Champions League football next term
While both sections of the fans would not have wanted a draw prior to kick-off, at the end of the night, picking up a point off a top four rival, in fact did them more good than harm, and helped them narrow the gap on Liverpool.
The Red Devils are still competing for the Europa League, and it is no surprise than they are prioritising it over a top four finish. However, Mourinho did not rest a majority of his first-team players, but decided to get men behind the ball and hit the opponents on the break.
While Pep Guardiola set his side up to dominate the lion’s share of possession and work their way into the box, their finishing often let them down. Even though United maintained a structured shape, there were chances for City to break through and score the all important goal.
A draw now means that six points separate third-placed Liverpool from Arsenal that sit in sixth, with the two Manchester clubs sandwiched in between them. The duo have a game in hand over Liverpool, while Arsenal have played two matches fewer than the Merseysiders.
We are in for an intriguing last four game-weeks of the Premier League.
Fellaini continues to justify his critics with a foolish sending off
Marouane Fellaini has been made the scapegoat for Manchester United’s showing for the past three seasons, and the game against City showed us exactly why his days in a United jersey could be numbered.
After earning the first yellow card of the game in the 82nd minute, he got himself sent-off by headbutting City striker Sergio Aguero. While the Argentine made a meal of it, it was extremely daft, given the fact that the visitors were holding on for a point.
Mourinho did not publicly criticise Fellaini, but he would certainly have been infuriated by the player’s lack of temper. Also, throughout the game, the Belgian seldom played a forward pass, and lost the ball on a number of occasions.
Thus, it may be in team’s best interests to offload the player and sign a holding midfielder that will serve the side for the following years.
Gabriel Jesus almost had a derby moment to savour
Gabriel Jesus has been extremely influential from day one, and won over the admiration of the Manchester faithful from the moment he stepped onto the pitch for the Citizens. His performances were exemplary, but he unfortunately suffered an injury, ruling him out for several weeks.
With City piling on the pressure on United in the latter stages, Jesus put the ball into the back of the net and celebrated with joy before realising that he was offside. This was the second time it happened in his City career, and deprived him of a derby moment.
Paul Pogba’s absence was telling as United lacked forward passers in midfield
Despite being given plenty of stick since his world-record move in the summer, Paul Pogba has actually been pretty decent for the Red Devils this season. He dictates the tempo with aplomb and drifts forward to link up with the attacking players.
Due to an injury, he missed the game against City and his absence was telling. Michael Carrick, playing the role of an anchor man, wasn’t at his best, and his passing was off the standards that were expected of him.
Ander Herrera, too, wasn’t in top form while Fellaini had another dreadful outing. Pogba will miss Sunday’s game against Swansea as well, but is expected to be back for the Europa League semi-final against Celta Vigo.
Sergio Aguero puts in a disastrous performance
The Argentine striker was theatrical to get Fellaini sent-off, and that was his only telling contribution in the match. He looked off the pace from the start, and despite the number of chances he had, he failed to find the back of the net.
He had a total of nine attempts – thrice the amount of chances the entire United team had – and still could not provide any real test to David de Gea. Aguero needs to improve his performances or he could end up losing his spot in the team to Jesus for good.