Man City Complete League Double Over United

The first half fireworks were flying fast and furious early at the Etihad and the beginning of the match seemed to foreshadow a very competitive Manchester Derby. Kevin De Bruyne was on it right from the off as he took a brilliant Bernardo Silva cutback pass that was expertly allowed to continue on to De Bruyne by Jack Grealish so that KDB could pounce and put the ball in the back of the net in only the 5th minute of the game. The sky-blue side of Manchester was in a frenzy. They were like sharks with chum in the water and at that point we were not sure how United would respond to conceding early.

When City scored early, it’s usually bad news for the other team as the front running onslaught usually quickly ensues. However, Manchester United stood tall in the early part of the first half. Rangnick had an interesting setup and shape for the Red Devils with Pogba playing as a winger forward instead of his usual spot in the midfield linking up play. United didn’t solely sit back and absorb pressure early on. City had possession with their adept passing to break the high press, but United was ready and waiting to counter at every opportunity that presented itself. Manchester United would send 4 forward and attack with numbers. This attacking style paid off as the former Cityzen now Red Devil Jadon Sancho took a brilliant switch of play cross field pass from Pogba while on the break, cut it inside of Kyle Walker, and bent a sublime curling shot that just barely evaded the outstretched fingertips of Ederson who couldn’t keep the equalizer out of his goal. It was level at 1-1 and if felt like game on at the time.

Would this be another Manchester Derby where United would come in as visitors and spoil City’s early title winning party? They have shown the penchant for doing so especially at City’s home grounds over the past few years. City would squash those questions and silence any doubts soon after as Jack Grealish played a beautiful pass to Foden who exhibited some remarkable FIFA video game like ball control skills by lobbing the ball over the primary defender’s head with a flick of his foot, hastily running around the defender Lindelof before he could react, chesting the ball down to his knee, then down from his knee to his foot, one short bounce and Foden let off an absolute ripper of a micro volley on target! The move deserved a goal quite honestly, but De Gea was game and made a stellar save. The rebound ricocheted to the feet of Bernardo Silva who took a reflexive shot that was also blocked, but another rebound eventually ended up at the feet of Kevin De Bruyne who roofed it above De Gea and took back control of the game for City with a 2-1 lead. The Belgian talisman clearly brought his scoring boots on Sunday. He had himself a brace and was a couple of great De Gea saves away from netting himself a first half hat trick.

Jack Grealish has been much maligned since he transferred to Man City from Aston Villa for an English record £100 million. He hasn’t seamlessly fitted in and scored goals by the boatload. The truth is players who transfer to City often take a year to learn the fluid tiki taka system of Peo Guardiola and adapt their skillset to thrive in it. Grealish played an amazing match on Sunday even though he didn’t have any goals or assists to show for it. His movement, his link up play, his taking on of the fullbacks to put them under pressure, his drawing two defenders and passing to his open teammate were all amazing. Grealish made great decisions all day. He held the ball and took on defenders when he needed to and got off the ball and passed into space when he needed to. Grealish also showed a knack for making himself available in open spaces to relieve pressure for his teammates when they were getting pressed.

The City #10 played a hand in the buildup of two of Man City’s four goals. Jack quickly played the ball to Bernardo Silva on the left channel and then smartly left the ball to De Bruyne when Silva cutback the pass for City’s opening goal. Grealish also fizzed a filthy header to Foden that released him and ended up with City’s 2nd goal to retake the lead in the 28th minute. Grealish also created two more scoring chances for Foden on a wild header that hit the cross bar and a miskick from Gundogan that should have been a definite assist for Grealish. He seems to be growing into his new role at the Etihad for sure and that is a scary prospect indeed.

Manchester United is clearly struggling at the moment. Since firing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on November 20, 2021, United has only lost one match at the end of a 90 minute fulltime period, and that was to Wolves on January 3rd. However, while this is certainly an achievement, they haven’t won enough matches to make you feel like they are turning things around. Draws are still dropped points. Getting knocked out of the FA Cup tournament by Middlesbrough is frankly not good enough. Fighting for 4th place is not the standard set for this club over it’s long history and storied tenure in the English top flight division. Especially when you consider that Arsenal are one point clear of United with three games in hand to qualify for that coveted 4th spot for a Champions League berth.

The wide gulf between Manchester City and Manchester United was on full display in the 2nd half as the Cityzens had 92% possession over the last 15 minutes of Sunday’s Manchester Derby. City are a dominant side, but a disproportionate number like 92-8 should never happen to a big club like Manchester United under any circumstances. Especially not at a big rivalry game like Manchester Derby day. Pride and competitive spirit should demand more. In the meantime, City knows that they have to keep winning and keep earning all 3 points in every match for their final 10 of the EPL campaign because Liverpool is on a tear of good form at the moment and it doesn’t appear that the Reds will be dropping points anytime soon. We have a compelling title race indeed. If you don’t have April 10th circled on your calendar, save the date now. That could he an epic collision at the Etihad with all of the chips to play for.

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