Pep Guardiola made it six wins from six matches as Manchester City manager when he oversaw his first Manchester derby victory at Old Trafford on Saturday lunchtime.
The Blues stunned the home crowd with an absolutely dominant performance in the first 40 minutes of the game and thoroughly deserved to be 2-0 up thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho.
However, United got themselves back into the game in the 42nd minute when City debutant Claudio Bravo dropped a catch at the feet of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who fired into the empty net.
The second half was a tense and nervy affair and both sides had chances to score. It was De Bruyne who went closer than anyone when his shot hit the post but eventually, City were able to hold on for a deserved victory.
Here’s James Cunliffe with four conclusions from a wonderful day at the office for Guardiola’s men.
— Richard (@RichardTheBurns) September 10, 2016
Living up to the hype
With the reams of underlying narrative and media hype during the build-up of the season’s first Manchester derby, it was jinxed to be a boring 0-0. However, it was the exact opposite.
For the first time in years, the battle between red and blue was explosive and it didn’t disappoint. The first-half a tactical masterclass and the second-half a real end-to-end war. It was horrible to watch as a City fan, and I’m sure the red lot will say the same, but for the neutral I can imagine it was a cinematic to be remembered.
United threw men forward and I remained on the edge of my seat, by the time the fourth official announced five minutes of stoppage time I had no nails left to bite. A huge sigh of relief when Mark Clattenburg called full time, City got the perfect result and although it was only the league’s fourth fixture, it felt like a game that meant so much more.
De Bruyne blossoms
City’s start to the season has been flawless – six wins from six and you can’t complain. Sterling, Silva and Agüero all living it up in the spotlight, leaving last year’s player of the season on the side-lines… until now.
Benefiting from Paul Pogba’s lack of positional sense, De Bruyne blossomed in the centre. The Belgian lived a 10/10 performance in the most important game so far, as he has done every time he’s met his former coach Mourinho, who of course axed him from his Chelsea side just three years ago.
De Bruyne latched onto Kelechi Iheanacho’s flick on for the first goal and expertly gave De Gea the eyes to dispatch the ball into the bottom right. An assist not long later came from his gentle touch and turn allowing him the room to strike with his left before Kelechi pounced on the rebound.
Jamie Carragher was in particular very impressed by De Bruyne today and said on Sky Sports that should the Belgian continue this fine form in the coming years, he will go down as one of the league’s finest foreign imports.
Getting better and better
As opening forty-five minutes go, City fans couldn’t have expected much better than last week’s display at home to West Ham and yet again, Guardiola’s team improve.
Mourinho’s tactics were outdone and City picked their rivals apart. As expected the visitors controlled the play with circa 65% possession but it was their work in the opposing half which impressed the most. Taking advantage of United’s right-hand-side vulnerabilities, City created triangles to open them up; Nolito and Silva enjoying their time most.
Remember, this was all without the genius and solidarity of Sergio Agüero and Vincent Kompany. Not to mention, İlkay Gündoğan’s debut is still widely anticipated. The future is bright.
One had to falter, both Manchester sides held perfect records after the first month but it was the red side whose momentum was halted. City go top. Maximum points. Advantage Guardiola.
Other than a trip to White Hart Lane in a few weeks, the next 10 or so fixtures look very promising for City. Of course, Guardiola will soon look to rotate his team when he gets into the swing of the Champions League, but the squad is big enough and certainly good enough to deal with it.
It’s tough to predict how many points City can accumulate over this period but it’s just as tough to foresee a City loss in the coming games. What we do know however is that until the sky blues slip up, Mourinho and United will be playing catch up.
Written by James Cunliffe
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