Manchester Derby – 5 things to note as United take all three points in the derby

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Kieran Harm
Football and NFL Writer. Specialising in the Premier League and Bundesliga

This evening, Manchester United beat city rivals City in the Manchester Derby 2-0, thanks to goals from Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay. It was a hard fought tussle that went right down to the wire, but United had enough and came out on top.

United make pressure count early on

In the early going at Old Trafford, Manchester City were the better team and were playing the much better football. For the first 20 minutes, United barely got a touch of the ball – but then things changed.

In the five minutes leading up to Anthony Martial’s goal, United had 89% possession of the football. They had City totally pegged back – the Citizens just couldn’t string anything together.

Manchester United star Anthony Martial celebrates
Anthony Martial celebrates his goal today with the Manchester United fans – should the free-kick have been given?

Martial had one or two good opportunities to score, as did Daniel James – and in the 30th minute, they made their pressure count – albeit somewhat controversially. Bruno Fernandes took a tumble around 35 yards from goal on the left hand side as Ilkay Gundogan came in to tackle from behind him – although he seemingly got the ball.

Then, from the free-kick itself, Fernandes dinks a cheeky ball over the top into the path of Martial, catching out the City defence. Martial volleys it first time into the near post and the ball sneaks past Ederson – who absolutely should have saved it.

Still no Manchester Derby goal for Raheem Sterling

Perhaps the one stat that plagues Raheem Sterling and his career so far is the fact that he is yet to score a goal in the Manchester Derby, or even against Manchester United at all for that matter.

Today’s game marks 12 games against Manchester United for Sterling without ever having managed to find the back of the net. He says that since he found out about the record he’s started to “think about it too much”.

Raheem Sterling is tackled by Manchester United's Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Raheem Sterling and Aaron Wan-Bissaka engaged in another enthralling battle on the field this afternoon

The statistics seem to echo that too. Today, he faced another tough battle against the brilliant Aaron Was-Bissaka – he had one or two opportunities, but was largely kept quiet and had little impact on the outcome of the game.

As per WhoScored, Wan-Bissaka had the highest overall match rating in the game today with an 8.4 rating, miles ahead of next best (Anthony Martial) with 7.8. Wan-Bissaka made an impressive eight tackles in the game while Sterling was dispossessed five times, more than anybody else.

More controversy surrounding VAR and refereeing decisions

This was yet game to forget for the match officials and VAR today as they dropped the ball not once, but twice. In the first half, with the score at 1-0, Brazilian midfielder Fred broke into the box but fell to the floor as he was tackled by Nicolas Otamendi.

Referee Mike Dean whistled but didn’t point to the spot, instead he signaled a free-kick to Manchester City before booking Fred for simulation. Then, we saw the replays, which clearly showed contact as looked as though Otamendi kicked Fred in the shin.

VAR looked at the replays and very hastily decided not to award the penalty – claiming there “wasn’t enough contact to warrant a foul being given” in the official line.

Otamendi and Fred tangle
Although the picture may not be the best quality, you can see in this image that the contact between the two players

If I’m being completely honest, that is total garbage from PGMOL and the Premier League. Otamendi very visibly kicks Fred in the shin, the player goes down and every single day of the week should be awarded a penalty.

I can see why referee Mike Dean hasn’t given it, he was a fair distance away and there was something of a crowd between him and the ball, so it’s understandable he may have missed it – but that’s what VAR is supposed to be for.

They totally dropped the ball on that one, and should have admitted as much rather than putting out an absolute pathetic attempt at justification. It didn’t end there either, in the second half, Sergio Aguero was flagged offside as he was running through on goal…

The play all but stopped, but Aguero continued and put the ball in the back of the net. Replays then showed it was very, very close and the linesman should have most definitely left his flag down and let the play develop. VAR checked but didn’t give a goal – they couldn’t have really, the players had totally stopped.

We saw a similar incident at Bramall Lane earlier in the season when Jonjo Shelvey was flagged off, but kept running and put the ball in the net despite the fact all the Sheffield United players had stopped. The replays showed he was in fact onside and VAR awarded the goal – causing absolute mayhem in the stands and in the media.

If they’d have given the goal today, in such a big game as the Manchester Derby, there would have been hell to pay. My honest opinion is that they’ve looked at it, deemed him onside and then decided they didn’t need the headaches that giving the goal would have caused.

Either way, the linesman should never have raised his flag and put the VAR officials and Mike Dean in that situation – NO FLAG UNLESS IT’S CLEAR AS DAY! What’s so hard about that?

City miss midfield maestro Kevin De Bruyne

Manchester City and Belgium star Kevin De Bruyne missed the game today through injury and his team sorely missed him. As Manchester United decided to sit deep and look to catch City on the counter, Pep Guardiola’s team really could have done with De Bruyne.

Not many players have the same ability to pick out a pass and unlock a defence that De Bruyne has. Whether the defence is in a low block, pressing high up the pitch or have all 11 players on the goal-line, you can bet your bottom dollar De Bruyne would find a hole to exploit.

Manchester city youngster Phil Foden
Phil Foden didn’t have the best game of his short career today, but did show one or two glimpses of his ability

After United took the lead today, they sat back and allowed City to come forward. They prodded and probed, spread the ball from side to side but just couldn’t quite break down an impressively resolute Manchester United defensive line.

I just can’t help but feel that if they’d had De Bruyne playing rather than the likes of Phil Foden, he may have been able to exploit one or two of the cracks that did show themselves in the United back line – particularly in the second half.

Bruno Fernandes continues to impress

Since arriving at Old Trafford in January, Bruno Fernandes has been an absolute revelation for Manchester United. From the moment he stepped onto the field in his debut against Wolves, the United fans have really taken to the Portuguese star.

Man United midfielder Bruno Fernandes
Bruno Fernandes had yet another impressive game for Manchester United this afternoon – can he keep it up?

He is exactly what United have been missing in their midfield – somebody who can effectively drift between the lines, causing issues for the opposition defensive midfielders. His energy and ability to impact the game all over the pitch is outstanding.

All of that is before you get to his technical ability. On the ball, there a few quite as good as Bruno. He can pick out a pass, he can dribble with it at pace and he can shoot too. His little dinked pass over the top for the Martial goal this afternoon was delightful.

So far, Fernandes has three goals and three assists in his eight Manchester United appearances. His presence has turned United into a very exciting team to watch play – and I cannot wait to see how he links up with Marcus Rashford when the England international recovers from his injury.

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