Manchester derby talking points: City blitz, King Kevin and Mourinho’s mistake

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After a frenzied Manchester derby, we run through four of the top talking points as Manchester City came away with the points.

In the first derby of the season, City won 2-1 at Old Trafford thanks to first-half goals from man-of-the-match Kevin De Bruyne and striker Kelechi Iheanacho.

It means Pep Guardiola’s City continue their 100 per cent start to the campaign, while Jose Mourinho was left reeling after a questionable team selection. All the fallout is below…

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City’s first-half blitz

Manchester City delivered what Gary Neville described as one of the best first-half performances he had ever seen in the first 40 minutes at Old Trafford. Guardiola’s men were utterly dominant, pinning United back and repeatedly targeting their right flank, where Antonio Valencia and Eric Bailly couldn’t cope with a blur of blue shirts.

Guardiola was very pleased with his side's all-round display
Guardiola Happy at Manchester Derby
 Guardiola was very pleased with his side’s all-round display

Some of City’s combination play was brilliantly intricate, but De Bruyne’s opener came from a route one long pass by Aleksandar Kolarov. The Belgian then turned provider for the second when his low, diagonal shot bounced back off the post for Iheanacho to tap home.

City enjoyed 66 per cent of the possession in that first half, but the key to their dominance was their approach without the ball. City’s forward players gave United no time to settle with their feverish pressing, and it was no coincidence that United’s passing accuracy in their own half dropped from a season average of 93 per cent to 80 per cent before the break.

Bravo off the hook

No Manchester City player will been more relieved by the sound of the final whistle than new signing Claudio Bravo. Guardiola regards the ball-playing Chilean goalkeeper as a perfect fit for his philosophy, but he was badly at fault for Ibrahimovic’s goal as he spilled an innocuous cross from Wayne Rooney.

Claudio Bravo fumbles the ball as he collides with team-mate John Stones at Manchester Derby
Claudio Bravo fumbles the ball as he collides with team-mate John Stones

“He flaps at his first real moment of pressure in this league,” said Neville in the Sky Sports commentary box. “He’s let Manchester United back into this game. He didn’t need to come for it. I wonder if Joe Hart’s smiling in Turin.”

Fortunately for Bravo, City held on to their slender advantage, but the former Barcelona man had plenty of other nervous moments, gifting the ball to Jesse Lingard shortly before half-time and making a desperate challenge on Rooney after a heavy touch in the second half. The early evidence suggests he may need time to adapt in the Premier League

De Bruyne the star

De Bruyne still showed glimpses of class in his injury-hit 2015/16 season, and on Saturday at Old Trafford, the Belgian was the best player on the pitch by some distance. His position, placing himself in the pocket between the Manchester United central midfielders and centre-halves in the No 10 role, caused havoc.

Kevin De Bruyne celebrates with Nolito after scoring the opener at Manchester Derby
Kevin De Bruyne celebrates with Nolito after scoring the opener

He drifted in between both areas, picking up the ball in space and releasing it before the United defence had a chance to regain shape, and in a team that loves the ball and is likely to come up against a few parked buses, De Bruyne’s quick-thinking is invaluable.

“I think he’s got everything,” said Graeme Souness after the game. “Two great feet, he’s quick, he’s got a football brain, which is one of the most important things you can have.”

If they can keep him fit, the 25-year-old could be the key to success for Guardiola.

Mourinho admits mistake

All eyes were on Manchester City’s frontline with the absence of Sergio Aguero before kick-off – would Iheanacho start? Would Pep play a false nine? Would Leroy Sane get the nod? But come 11.30am, United’s inclusion of Henrikh Mkhitaryan for his first-ever Premier League start, and Jesse Lingard for his first Premier League minutes of the season, were the biggest surprises.

Jose Mourinho took responsibility for his selection mistake
 Jose Mourinho took responsibility for his selection mistake

Neither settled in a defensive sense, and neither looked sharp at the other end, forcing Mourinho to hook them both at the break as United looked to claw their way back into the game. Lingard had just 13 touches in the opening 45 minutes, while Mkhitaryan lost possession 13 times, and though Mourinho said certain players “let him down” on Saturday, he has taken full responsibility.

“Honestly, I had two or three players in the first half, that if the game is now and I know what is going to happen, obviously I don’t play them.

“I thought because of the characteristics of the game that we could hurt them with some individuals with some qualities, they didn’t give me what I want. It’s their fault? It’s my fault? It’s my fault, because I’m the manager and it’s always my fault because it’s my choice.”

By Nick Wright and Gerard Brand

 

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