Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Stalemate in the derby

The first Manchester derby of the season was not the exciting, entertaining game all fans and neutrals would have hoped for. For the purist, it was a show of responsibility and professionalism by two teams who cancelled each other out with fantastic defensive performances.

United made one change from the midweek draw against CSKA Moscow, with Juan Mata coming in for Jesse Lingard, whereas City bolstered the midfield by giving a start to Fernando, paired with Fernandinho in the middle with Yaya Toure playing just ahead of them.

The first half came and went without a whole lot to write about. United probably edged the play, controlling the possession and tempo but didn't even have a shot to show for it. City looked threatening on the counter but a blocked Raheem Sterling shot by Phil Jones was the best chance they had.

The second half was more one sided in favour of United as City really struggled to build any troubling attacks. Again, United probed without creating any telling chances until substitute Jesse Lingard hit the bar with 10 minutes remaining. Anthony Martial, possibly the most dangerous player on the pitch cut inside off his left flank and floated a beautiful pass over the City defense to meet the run of Lingard who on the volley, hooked the ball over Joe Hart but agonizingly on to the crossbar, preventing him from being an instant Old Trafford hero. And with a minute to go, a free kick floated into the box by Ander Herrera was nodded down by substitute Marouane Fellaini into the path of Chris Smalling whose snap shot was well saved by Hart.

In the end, both sides will be content with a point from a tense game with very few chances. Both defenses will take the plaudits. For United, Marcos Rojo was exceptional, maybe his best performance in red as he kept the inform Kevin De Bruyne so nullified that Manuel Pellegrini felt the need to change City's system to try and involve De Bruyne more. For City, Nicolas Otamendi was their standout performer with his aggressive defending in which he broke up the play time and time again, making it hard for United to make decisive plays in the final third.

United stand in 4th position in the league, 2 points behind Arsenal and travel to the dangerous Crystal Palace next week on the back of two solid defensive performances. We also welcome Middlesbrough in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday in which we can expect Louis Van Gaal to make a number of changes.