The second Manchester Derby of the season arrived in the form of a League Cup Semi-Final first leg at Old Trafford. Just about a month ago Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side stole the show at the Etihad in a vital 2-1 win in the Premier League, but it wasn’t to be this time around.
United had a decent first few minutes with Rashford sending a decent ball into the box and Daniel James nearly getting on the end of a long ball. Unfortunately the positive play didn’t last long. Bernardo Silva took advantage of a back peddling United defense by unleashing an unstoppable shot from range past a helpless De Gea. About 15 minutes later City struck again, this time taking advantage of poor defending from Victor Lindelof, who lazily headed the ball to Bernardo Silva and then let Riyad Mahrez clear through on goal. Mahrez easily rounded De Gea and passed it into the net.
Andreas Pereira gifted the Citizens a 3rd, albeit slightly unluckily, after yet another ruthless attack by City in which De Bruyne managed to also make Phil Jones look rather stupid. The poor defending continued, but United managed to close out the first half without conceding any more. This was partly due to the continued trend of Raheem Sterling doing everything but score against Manchester United, but also an offside call and a decent stop from De Gea Against Silva.
At the break Ole decided that in order to deal with the speed and creativity of City’s midfield he would bring on Nemanja Matic, and though he didn’t offer much defensively Matic did settle things down at times in possession. City continued to dominate the game early on, testing Brandon Williams a few times, but the young left back was equal to the pressure. United began to get forward a bit more, but City’s shape frustrated any creativity the Reds could muster. Several possessions came to nothing, and Rashford sent a free kick high from a decent position a little after the hour mark.
In the 70th minute United finally gave themselves a lifeline in the tie. Greenwood received the ball on the break, took the space City offered him, and then placed a nice through ball for Rashford to slot one past Claudio Bravo and make it 1-3. United stayed aggressive, conceding some dangerous chances, but De Gea was up for it with a couple nice saves.
The decision to bring on Angel Gomes, who played the ball to Greenwood leading up to the goal, had a positive impact. Anthony Martial also came on for the last 10 minutes as United pushed for more goals. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be, and the noisy neighbors held on for the first-leg win.
Pep Guardiola set up his team well for this one, aided by a depleted and disorganized United defense and midfield spine. Ole has some planning to do before the second-leg meeting on January 29th. This squad was incapable of absorbing pressure from City, but will hopefully be less restricted by injuries for the return fixture.