Manchester is red again after United came from behind to beat City 2-1 in Saturday’s Premier League clash at Old Trafford. It was a dramatic, close-fought encounter, with late goals from Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford sealing a win that moves United up to third, within a single point of second-placed City.
Erik ten Hag made nine changes to the side that saw off Charlton in the Carabao Cup in midweek, returning to something like his full-strength lineup. Luke Shaw returned to partner Raphaël Varane at centre-half, while Fred joined Christian Eriksen and Casemiro in the centre of midfield. Bruno Fernandes drifted in off the right, Rashford off the left, while Anthony Martial led the line.
United’s plan was clear from the off: sit tight and narrow, stop City playing into Kevin de Bruyne, and strike on the counter. Ten Hag’s charges played much more directly than we’ve become accustomed to in recent months, with David de Gea electing to smash the ball long as often as play it short. For the first half, it worked a treat. City’s star man Erling Haaland barely had a kick, while the tenacious Fred frustrated an ineffective de Bruyne. De Gea didn’t have a single save to make.
Instead, it was United that posed the greater attacking threat. Martial did a good job of holding the ball up, and the pace of Rashford’s runs posed City problems. The best chance came just past the half-hour, when Fernandes lifted a long ball over the top and Rashford rounded an overenthusiastic Ederson, though Manuel Akanji was on hand to clear the ball off the line. Three minutes later, Eriksen slipped Rashford through again, though a heavy touch allowed Ederson to gather possession.
The second half began with a United substitution, with Antony introduced in place of the recently returned Anthony Martial. But the change came at the cost of even more City possession, with United losing a key outlet on the counter-attack. On the hour, the visitors’ pressure told. Riyad Mahrez slipped in de Bruyne, whose cross from the right was headed home from close-range by half-time sub Jack Grealish.
With United struggling to create anything in attack, ten Hag again turned to the bench, introducing Alejandro Garnacho for Eriksen. The game looked at risk of petering out into a disappointing defeat, until United struck with two goals in four minutes.
The first looked at risk of being chalked out for offside, as Rashford was in an offside position as he lingered over a defence-splitting pass from Casemiro. However, he didn’t actually make contact with the ball, allowing Fernandes to arrive on the edge of the area to sweep a glorious low finish into Ederson’s bottom corner.
A furious City surged forward in search of a winning goal, but left themselves exposed on the counter. Fernandes fired the ball into Garnacho in space down the left, who managed to deliver a low cross into the six-yard box at the second time of asking. Rashford was on hand to stab home at the near post, sending the Old Trafford crowd into raptures, and setting up a nervy final few minutes.
Ten Hag looked to shut up shop in stoppage time, with Lisandro Martínez, Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay introduced in place of Varane, Malacia and Rashford. City threw everyone forward in search of an equaliser, but United held firm to record their first derby win at Old Trafford in almost three years.