Manchester United pulled off an incredible 3-2 win at Manchester City on Saturday in what was billed to be The Citizens’ coronation day. Despite going down to goals from Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan, the Red Devils responded through Paul Pogba and Chris Smalling.
Contributing writer, Nathan Quao, of Citi Sports, pens the main points from the tie.
Chris Smalling: Villain first, hero later
6 years apart. Same mistake. Same setting. Same punisher. That was the talk when Vincent Kompany scored the opening goal of the day. Smalling lost the Belgian and the Red Devils were one up. Smalling was again in the mix for Gundogan’s goal as his late reaction to the German’s turn was costly.
His first half was marked by errors in judgement that had been seen in previous matches. He was either too late to jump or he was too slow in getting to attackers and all his actions were really draining the team of confidence.
But in the second half, he fared better and he redeemed himself with a good goal that was a carbon copy of hist first goal for Man United against Man City. That was in 2011 at Wembley in the Community Shield. It was the leveller in the game as United went on to win 3-2 that day.
However, when all the excitement settles, the message will still be clear as daylight that he is not the kind of quality that should represent Man United.
He has failed to grow and develop and his gaffes have taken on extra value as the years have gone on. Today, he may have scored the winner against the neighbours to delay their title ambitions but he has to shown the exit in the summer.
The path to success and domination should not accommodate below-par quality in any shape or form.
The Frenchman has always been criticised for not showing up for the big matches ever since he re-joined the Red Devils from Juventus and rightly so, For 89 million pounds, there must be great performances almost every time.
But after a week of strange revelations concerning the Frenchman being offered to Pep Guardiola, the player had to say something and did he say a lot.
After a first half filled with moments of showboating, Pogba woke up and realised what was at stake. It was a good decision to send him further up the pitch by the manager but the player was super in his execution.
He popped up in the box to dink his first finish and to head in the leveller. For the first time, he had an influence on a Man United and that should tell him of his own abilities.
His beaming smiles and bouyant disposition after the game told all that he was happy with his work.
There is a lot Paul Pogba can offer and he must understand that he does have the quality to place himself in the conversation when it comes to the best players on the globe.
Maybe he needed an occasion. There is none bigger than the Manchester Derby and perhaps, the victory will awaken the beast in him and he will breathe more fire for the Red Devils.
Brilliant team response
Nothing beats winning the derby and there is nothing bigger than delaying the neighbours’ party and taking yourself out of their history. This was the realisation Man United should have had through out the game but it came in the second half and it turned out to the crucial.
The response to a very horrible first half was lovely to see and it even more pleasing seeing that it did not need a change in personnel.
The same unit showed hunger and passion and the will to follow through on whatever plan the manager spoke of at half-time.
Alexis Sanchez was top quality as he played his part in all three goals on the day and he looked closer to old self than the labouring new signing most people had witnessed in the last few weeks.
Ander Herrera played his part well and when he was needed to stick a boot in and employ some of the dark arts in terms of ‘eating up’ a little more time, he did.
David De Gea showed his quality again with steady goalkeeping save the Gundogan goal. He should have done far better than he did. He rose to the moment when he tipped Sergio Aguero’s header over the bar late in the game to keep Man United in the lead.
Ashley Young was very fortunate to escape without a penalty on his hands as he tackled Aguero from a De Buyne pass but apart from that, he worked hard on the day.
The bottom line is that the players showed the needed willingness to give their best.
That should have been a more recurrent theme across the season but if they will prove themselves on derby day and use the energy to close the season out and win the FA Cup, the fans will be very content with that.
They need to be reminded of this.
Follow Nathan on Twitter @nathan_quao