United really can play
After a reasonable first quarter of the match, City’s two quickfire goals completely unsettled United. They were all at sea and it was only Raheem Sterling’s profligacy that kept the score down and ensured it was only 2-0 at half time.
The situation demanded that United showed some personality. They had to come and play. Their first instinct had to be to go forward.
Playing a basic 4-4-2, adapted on the fly, they outplayed the champions-elect and were back level within 10 minutes. Alexis Sánchez, Ander Herrera, Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba all buzzed around and City couldn’t live with it.
The turnaround was brought about by players taking individual pride in their performances; not hiding, ensuring that their passes were forward and accurate and showing guts. This went beyond tactics and systems and it was bloody good to see.
Paul Pogba is back
Pogba went into this one on the back of claims that he was offered to City in January and it seemed that those comments from Pep Guardiola sparked him into life.
Even in the tumultuous first half, he was trying to make things happen - even if he was characteristically lazy defensively - and in the second half he came into his own.
He is a much more effective player when he arrives late into the box and he took his goals extremely well.
His celebrations at the end showed a man who is determined to prove the doubters wrong. He hasn’t done that in one half’s work but what a way to start.
Ander Herrera is a big-game player
The Spaniard was brought back into the first team to press City and he even provided United’s brightest moment of the first half, pinching the ball high up the pitch and nearly stealing in.
It was in the second half that he really shone though. Positive and punchy in possession when needed, he was one of the players who dragged United forward.
And that chess pass assist for the first goal. The awareness. The bottle to try it. The execution of it that leaves Vincent Kompany straining every sinew to cut it out but getting nowhere near. It was simply glorious and I could watch it 1000 times on repeat.
But he played cerebrally as well. He bought many a foul when the game needed slowing down. His, and I believe this is the technical term, shithousery, aggravated the City players to the extent that many of them lost their heads.
This is why so many United fans love last season’s player of the year.
Pogba might have got the goals but it was the energy of Alexis Sánchez that turned the game on its head.
Moved inside to a striker’s position in the second half, he buzzed around and suddenly Vincent Kompany had a whole host of new questions to answer.
The Belgian flunked the test. Sánchez provided the cross that Herrera chested into Pogba for the first and it was his wicked deliveries that set up both the equaliser and the winner.
This was the day he arrived as a United player.
United weren’t prepared to play the clowns
Going into a derby match with the objective of being party poopers isn’t an ideal situation and it looked at half time that United would be sent home having played the role of clowns.
At half time, a rotated City team looked as if they could go on and make it any score, but United showed a backbone. They hadn’t come to be whipping boys and subject their fans to a humiliating afternoon and it showed in the second period.
This team has many, many shortcomings but they managed to make up for them by showing heart, personality and a desire to play positive football. It came out of the blue but it was the Reds who were celebrating at full time.