Manchester City hardly broke a sweat in a comfortable 3-0 victory at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Erling Haaland scored a goal in either half, before Phil Foden added a third to subject United to their fifth defeat of the Premier League season already. Andre Onana saved The Red Devils from further blushes, making seven saves to prevent the scoreline from turning into a rout.
Erik Ten Haag’s game-plan seemed set from the start, as he started all of Sofyan Amrabat, Scott McTominay and Christian Eriksen, to pack the centre of the midfield. The idea was to win the ball in dangerous areas and spring on the counter at rapid pace. It almost worked in the third minute itself. Bruno Fernandes dis-possessed Josko Gvardiol in the City half and set up McTominay, whose shot was weak and straight at Ederson.
After the early scare however, City got into their rhythm and started playing through United at will. With John Stones playing in midfield alongside Rodri, one of the home team’s wingers was always tucking in, leaving the wide centre-back open. In a game where the commentator Owen Hargreaves used the word “overloads” at least once every two minutes, City were creating loads of them in the wide areas.
The first chance came in the 7th minute, when Kyle Walker ghosted in at the back post unmarked, and was picked out by Rodri. The Englishman headed the ball back to Foden, whose header was well-saved by Onana. Haaland looked set to bundle in the rebound, but Harry Maguire was somehow able to clear off the line.
The goalkeeper was at it again ten minutes later to palm away a deflected effort from Jack Grealish, before there came a moment of real contention.
Following a City free-kick, Rasmus Hojlund was adjudged to have brought down Rodri in the box. The referee didn’t blow initially, but was advised by VAR to go and a have a second look, and the spot-kick was awarded. United had good reason to feel aggrieved by this decision, as the incident in question is similar to ones that occur in almost every game, during set-pieces.
Haaland stepped up, and there was nothing Onana could do this time other than pick the ball from the back of his net.
United were finding it impossible to play out from the back, and their wide men Rashford and Bruno were hardly getting into the game as a result. Their tactic most often was to play long to Hojlund up front, but Ruben Dias didn’t have too many issues dealing with the Danish forward.
In injury time at the end of the first half, the game exploded into life. First, McTominay was played through by Rashford with a brilliant first-time pass, but the Scot’s volleyed effort was saved by Ederson. This was just United’s second effort on target, and both had come from McTominay.
Two minutes later, at the other end, Bernardo Silva found a pocket of space on the left, and his cross to the back post was met by Haaland. It seemed like a sure goal, but Onana acrobatically turned the ball behind for a corner.
During the break, Ten Haag brought on Mason Mount for Amrabat, who had struggled to have any impact on the game while also picking up a booking.
The personnel change in midfield didn’t really do anything to solve United’s problems however, and a very similar move to the one before half-time brought about City’s second.
With Dalot up the pitch and out of position, Silva overlapped outside Grealish, and his chipped cross was headed home this time by Haaland. The Norwegian now has 11 goals in the Premier League this season, and it was incredible to see how openly unmarked he was left for this goal.
City were looking like they were hardly even in third gear, and the gulf in class between the two sides was there for all to see.
With 20 minutes to go however, United had the chance to set up a grandstand finish. Eriksen assumed the quarter-back role and picked out Rashford with a long ball. The striker controlled with his chest and only had Walker between himself and the goal, but struck his shot narrowly wide off Ederson’s post.
A minute later, Onana was at it again, thwarting Haaland in a one-on-one situation, after the latter was put through by Grealish.
With just over 10 minutes left to play, City wrapped up the points. Eriksen allowed Rodri to beat him and have a shot at goal, which was saved by Onana. The rebound fell to Haaland, who unselfishly squared the ball for Foden to tap in to an empty net.
The sombre mood inside Old Trafford told the whole story, as despite the controversial penalty call, the result never really seemed in doubt. Especially for a derby game, United’s intensity, desire and overall performance left a lot to be desired.
With this victory, City climb up to third in the table, level on points with Arsenal and two behind Spurs at the summit. United, on the other hand, remain in eighth place, nine points behind their city rivals and 11 off the top.
Andre Onana – 8
Diogo Dalot – 6
Harry Maguire – 6
Johnny Evans – 6
Victor Lindelof – 5
Sofyan Amrabat – 6
Christian Eriksen – 6
Bruno Fernandes – 5
Scott McTominay – 6
Marcus Rashford – 5
Rasmus Hojlund – 6
Mason Mount – 6
Sergio Reguilon – 5
Alejandro Garnacho – 5
Ederson – 7
Kyle Walker – 8
Ruben Dias – 7
Josko Gvardiol – 7
John Stones – 8
Rodri – 8
Jack Grealish – 7
Bernardo Silva – 8
Julian Alvarez – 7
Phil Foden – 8
Erling Haaland – 9*
None before minute 75
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