Manchester United overcame an under-strength Manchester City side by a goal to nil in the fourth round of the EFL Cup at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
City were unable to muster a shot on target all evening and Juan Mata’s 54th minute strike proved to be the winner.
Here’s the four big things James Cunliffe learned from a night of positives and negatives for Pep Guardiola’s City.
Do we still need a new centre-back?
Since the arrival of Eliaquim Mangala in the summer of 2014, City have splashed out near £110 million on new central defenders and have reinforced the team with at least one new centre-back for nine consecutive seasons. But do we still need another?
Pep Guardiola has put his trust in the current quartet of John Stones, Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany and Aleksander Kolarov. Tosin Adarabioyo impresses at youth level but it looks like it will be some time before we see the academy graduate in the first-team, while Jason Denayer’s chance of playing for City seems highly unlikely.
Clean sheets have been a rarity this season. The defence has only held out once in the league. Now, I understand how changing an entire system the way Guardiola has done can affect this but still the individuals at the back are showing signs of weariness.
Stones has a mistake in him, we can accept that and I’m happy with him in our ranks. Despite being a world class defender, Kompany’s injury troubles make him a liability. Otamendi is hot and cold – one minute he’s the assured warrior we need and the next he’s making clumsy slide tackles in the other half. And finally, Kolarov cannot be trusted. It’s great when he has the freedom to play 50-yard punts and carry the ball but under any substantial pressure the Serb crumbles.
Maybe we just need to give them time but all I’m saying is; I wouldn’t say no to Leonardo Bonucci.
Maffeo and Garcia are ready for first team
In a drab derby performance, the two stand-out players were the young Spanish duo of Pablo Maffeo and Aleix Garcia. The 19 year old academy pairing have been at the forefront of Guardiola’s plans to graduate youth products into the first team and last night they certainly proved their worth.
Jose Mourinho clearly sought out to target Maffeo at right-back with the aerial presence of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulling onto him constantly but the former Girona loanee was strong enough to hold his own. Not only did that but Maffeo dealt with the pace and directness of Marcus Rashford very impressively. With Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta still on the injury list, there’s no reason why Maffeo can’t be the answer to City’s current right-back troubles.
On to Garcia, whose style of play perfectly depicts Guardiola’s ideas of a player in this role is making him becoming a personal favourite of mine. The bearded-teen is not the flashiest of tempo setters but his assured passing and movement next to an uninspiring Fernando was the source of any City attack in the derby. There is no doubt in my mind that Garcia has the ability to be a part of the senior set-up.
Aleix García (19) v United:
94.4% pass accuracy
85 completed passes
1 key pass
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) October 27, 2016
Toothless attack is proving to be costly
Two goals in our last five games is a shocking return on its own, let alone when you consider our attacking qualities and compare it with the 15 goals we scored in the opening month of August.
During this past four weeks of underachieving results we’ve seen the strike force blank at White Hart Lane, make Maarten Stekelenburg look like Manuel Neuer, fail to take advantage of a weakened Barcelona defence and only this week did City not have a single shot on target during the derby.
What worries me even more is Sergio Aguero’s club drought. The Argentinian marksman hasn’t got himself on the score-sheet since over 34 days ago when his brace helped City beat Swansea 3-1 at The Liberty Stadium.
They have been creating more than enough chances to score in fairness but the sooner we smash a team with four or five goals the better. In terms of confidence, a City hammering is what’s needed – I’m looking at you West Brom…
EFL Cup the least of Guardiola’s worries
In the pre-match press conference, Guardiola told reporters that the EFL Cup was the least important competition for him and this was evident in the nine changes he made from the weekend’s line-up.
It’s always tough when you lose to United and I’m completely against the notion of wanting to get knocked out of a cup so we can focus on the league but looking back, the loss won’t affect the team too much.
Our Spanish boss will be looking at the more meaningful games that are coming up against West Brom and Barcelona to get his City outfit back on the right track.
Written by James Cunliffe
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