Manchester United have been eliminated from the Carabao Cup after a disappointing 2-0 semifinal defeat at home to rivals Manchester City. After a relatively even first half, United struggled to match the visitors in the second, eventually slumping to a deserved defeat. Ole Gunnar Solskjær and his players could have no complaints about the final score.
The game got off to a highly entertaining start, with both sides looking more efficient in attack than sturdy in defence. United thought they’d taken a calamitous lead after just two minutes, when a Marcus Rashford shot was spilled by City keeper Zack Steffen, only to rebound off John Stones and trickle over the line. Rashford, however, had been in an offside position when he received the ball, and the own goal was correctly chalked off.
Just three minutes later City too had a goal disallowed, when İlkay Gündoğan strayed into an offside position to poke a low Phil Foden cross past Dean Henderson. The chances continued to flow, and the visitors’ keeper Steffen soon made amends for his early error, sprawling to tip a well-placed Bruno Fernandes shot around the post. Kevin De Bruyne went close from distance within the quarter-hour, rifling a powerful effort against the post.
Gradually, the game began to settle down, with City dominating possession and United’s defence doing just about enough to repel them. Midway through the first half, Foden took receipt of a well-placed Oleksandr Zinchenko pass, and thought he’d given the visitors the lead after slotting underneath Henderson and into the net. Fortunately, once again the assistant’s flag was up, and a goal ruled out for the third time in the match.
United appeared to grow in confidence as the half wore on, and City struggled to find a route to goal. The hosts remained a constant threat in the counter-attack, and Rashford should’ve done better after he was sent clean through by Fred just past the half-hour. He uncharacteristically couldn’t bring the ball under control, and Steffen swooped in to snuff out the chance.
The restart saw City re-establish their control, though this time with lethal consequences. Just five minutes into the second half, the visitors took a deserved lead, when John Stones nudged a lethal Foden free-kick past Henderson with his thigh. It wasn’t pretty, but on the balance of play, it was probably deserved.
United were lucky not to concede a second in quick succession: a brilliant long-range effort from João Cancelo flashed inches over Henderson’s far post, minutes before the Portuguese full-back clipped a sumptuous cross just too far ahead of the outstretched toes of Foden. Riyad Mahrez curled a fine effort towards the top corner just past the hour, brilliantly nudged over the top by Henderson.
It took until the final 10 minutes, but eventually City did kill the game off. Once again the goal came from a set-piece, though this time it was a corner that did the damage. A De Bruyne delivery was weakly flicked out to the edge of the area by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, where an entirely unmarked Fernandinho was lurking. The Brazilian struck the ball sweetly, clipping the ball low and hard inside Henderson’s far post for 2-0. Ultimately, it was a poor performance from United, who could have few complaints about the result.