For the first time since Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm, Manchester United completed the league double against cross-town rivals Manchester City Sunday. A goal from Anthony Martial in the first half and a sensational screamer by Scott McTominay seconds before the final whistle secured all three points for the Reds and put them within three points of a top four finish.
It was a rainy, perfect afternoon at the Theatre of Dreams. Here are three things we learned from United’s 2-0 victory against City.
Bruno breathes life into Old Trafford
United have yet to lose a contest since Bruno Fernandes made his debut for the club, and all eyes were on him to see if the £47m man could perform in big matches like the Manchester derby. The former Sporting midfielder signed for United just one day after the last derby in January, and has had plenty of practice against arguably weaker sides in the run-up to this match.
Although he didn’t score a goal, he provided an incredible assist and pulled a move usually only the likes of Paul Pogba could execute. After winning a free kick, Fernandes duped the Blues’ backline with a chipped volley to Anthony Martial, who snuck past Ederson to open the scoring at the half hour mark.
MARTIAL DOES IT OFF THE FREE KICK pic.twitter.com/8t2gVF0poA— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) March 8, 2020
It was one Ederson could have easily saved, yet the confidence to even pull off such a play shows not only how comfortable Bruno already is in a red shirt, but also the confidence he has in his teammates. Old Trafford couldn’t keep quiet for 90 minutes, and soon enough chants bearing Bruno’s name will be on repeat at the Theatre of Dreams.
United know how to frustrate Big Six opponents
Just this year alone, United have done the league double against City and Chelsea, beaten Tottenham at home and have drawn against Arsenal and Liverpool. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was a far superior manager than Pep Guardiola on Sunday and much credit should be given for his ability to expose City’s depleted defense and take advantage of a midfield missing their best player. Time and again this season, so-called Big Six opponents have shown an inability to alter their game plan, while Solskjaer on the other hand studies what makes them vulnerable and uses that his advantage.
The Norwegian has all but breathed new life into United’s counter-attacking, expertly using this approach to exhaust City any chance he could get. Guardiola’s men were left constantly taken aback at the quickness of their opponents and it was clear they didn’t have anything drawn up defensively to put a stop to their rivals.
United show the makings of a title challenge
Liverpool may be champions-elect this campaign, but United have nearly all the components to challenge their longtime foes for domestic dominance next season. United have yet to lose in the last 10 matches across all competition, showing form reminiscent of the days when Solskjaer served as interim manager following José Mourinho’s exit. With Solskjaer’s version of United now taking shape, the Reds are just a few summer signings and injury boosts away from reviving their dynasty and once again becoming one of the most threatening sides in Europe.