Manchester United beat Manchester City 1-0 at the Etihad this evening, but after the defeat at Old Trafford a few weeks ago, the scoreline wasn’t enough to book our place in the League Cup final against Aston Villa next month.
We won 2-1 at the Etihad last month but tonight was a very different game. We were unlucky not to be four or five goals ahead last time around, yet on this occasion the home side were largely the better team in the first half, yet on both occasions we went in ahead. Nemanja Matic scored a great goal against the run of play and United continued to pose a threat up until the half-time whistle.
As the game went on, and David de Gea continued to make great saves, and Raheem Sterling continued to be guilty of the incredible misses that United seem to inspire in him, we stayed ahead, knowing that one goal would be enough to take the game to penalties.
However, with almost 20 minutes left to play, Matic was sent off for a soft second yellow card, which even staunch City fan Micah Richards struggled to get his head around after the game. With time running out, United were presented with the moment they needed when Harry Maguire won a freekick on the edge of the box. Bizarrely, Fred was given the nod over Juan Mata and he fired his attempt in to the wall. This is Fred, who hasn’t scored a single freekick for United, over Mata, who has scored several, and in high pressure situations too. When we were 1-0 down at Juventus in the 86th minute, Mata drew us level from a freekick before we went on to win 2-1. The Brazilian must be doing incredible things on the training pitch but, while his general play is so much improved, he’s still woeful in front of goal on match day.
There’s no consolation for getting knocked out of a cup competition by City but we can be proud of our players securing our second win of the season at the Etihad. The gulf in class between the quality of players on the pitch and the money spent means we had little hope this evening. Without our three most important players, in Marcus Rashford, Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba, the task was near impossible.
Yet it makes you wonder what a difference it could have made had we signed Bruno Fernandes in the summer, when the club claimed we had no interest in him. Failing that, imagine if he had joined at the beginning of the transfer window and had been available to play in both legs.
As it is, we are left with regrets yet again, as the Glazers and Ed Woodward continue to ensure that we are incapable of competing with our rivals.