We needed the revenge for the 6-3 loss that we suffered earlier on in the season and that we did. The first half was tactical and cagey. The second, United started off poorly and Grealish punished them off the bench. In other years, that would have been game done and dusted. However, this team that Ten Hag is building is built of sterner stuff. A controversial equaliser from Bruno completely turned the tide and energy, which Rashford capitalised on as he poked it into the net. Only 1 point separates the two sides now and who would have thought that was possible after October 2nd?
With the run that United have been on and the past 10 years having been well in favour of the blue side of Manchester, today was billed as one that would show how far the team has come since the early drubbings we received in the Premier League season. The team had grown in immense confidence with the winning run that they had been on, especially at home. 9 wins on the trot in front of the Old Trafford along with the Citizens’ patchy form, both in performance and results, meant that this was a game where an upset, relatively, could be achieved.
The line up spoke more to Ten Hag learning from his mistakes in the reverse fixture as he bolstered the midfield. Bruno played off the right hand side, with Martial and Rashford in the normal positions. Fred, Eriksen and Casemiro filled in the midfield positions. Shaw played as the left centre back with Ten Hag as Martinez was deemed unfit to start from the beginning. While you would have thought that Bruno would have been earmarked to follow Cancelo’s trademark inside movements but really the set up was reminiscent of what Liverpool would do with the front three where each of the forwards would stand in the channels of the Man City’s defence so the choice to block those passes into the CMs and also allow them to press the CB or FB dependent on the situation. In terms of that, Bruno, Martial and Rashford done well. At times, Martial should have been able to press more but he looked incredibly unfit and the rumours of him suffering with an injury rung true as he was duly removed at half time to Antony.
Fred was given a man marking job on De Bruyne and he done fantastically well in limiting the Belgian’s influence in the first half. He followed him around like a bad smell, just as Herrera done to Hazard 6 years ago. In the second, Man City cottoned onto the idea and made the team make more rotations to misshapen United when they were defending. This plus the Antony sub made United less threatening in the offence and more vulnerable defensively as they were unable to sustain possession. That pressure built up until Grealish told on the pressure that Man City was building with a header at the back post
This Rashford run has been quite fantastic. 8 home games in a row he scored. Today, he made it a ninth. In the first half, the best two chances came to the left winger. He fluffed them, one where he struck it in the worst way possible so that Akanji was able to block it on the line. The second, he took a heavy touch which meant Ederson was able to smother it. When he pulled up on the stroke of half time, many United fans feared what had happened 3 years ago where an injury stopped a Rampant Rashford in his tracks. However, he came out again in the second half. The first 20-25 mins, he looked out of the game but he was unable to get into it as United couldn’t make the ball stick. As soon as Ten Hag made the switch to take Antony out of the centre forward position, put Rashford there and have Garnacho out on the left, United looked a threat again.
The turning point for me was when Rashford holds up the ball around the centre circle and sets Fred free. It is something that Rashford doesn’t do especially well but it was exactly what was needed and from there, a momentum grew. One that coincided with Rashford’s influence. Both goals, Rashford was involved. The first, in an offside position, he refused to get involved in the play and that allowed Bruno to come on and strike it into the net. Controversial but correct by the letter of the law. The second, Garnacho, having the effect that Rashford had 7 years, done brilliantly well to keep his composure and find Rashford in the box to slot in the winner.