Manchester United's Marouane Fellaini was sent offManchester United's Marouane Fellaini was sent off
Youth vs experience
The Manchester derby at the Etihad was the biggest game of the Premier League season for both United and City but Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola reacted to it in different ways. Guardiola, whose side started in the box seat, decided to bring in age and experience, with Yaya Toure, Aleksandar Kolarov, Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta all starting. Mourinho, on the other hand, who has been criticised for not trusting youth in the past, went with Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in attack, despite derby veteran Wayne Rooney sitting on the bench. It shows, if nothing more, that Guardiola is in desperate need of strengthening his squad.
READ MORE: Full match report from the Etihad
READ MORE: Premier League midweek round-up
Thanks for the memories, Wayne
With Zlatan Ibrahimovic out injured, Mourinho put his faith in Martial, Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan over the United and England captain. Much of the build-up of Sky Sports’ coverage was based around Rooney and it looks increasingly like this will be his last-ever Manchester derby. He will leave great memories of it behind – namely that overhead kick – but the writing is on the wall. Ironically, breaking Sir Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record was probably the act that sealed the decision to let him go in the summer, as he has now achieved he can at the club.
Rashford loves a derby
He quite likes playing up against Nicolas Otamendi doesn’t he? Rashford has been in scintillating form coming into the derby without scoring too many goals and he gave the Argentine a torrid time right from the outset. As early as 12 minutes in Otamendi decided the best course of action for stopping the teenager was to illegally block his runs and give him the odd kick, but even that didn’t stop him. One of Rashford’s stand-out moments was his delightful little flick around the City defender before collecting the ball on the other side to have a free run at goal. He faded somewhat in the second half as United allowed City to dominate and looked frustrated at his lack of service, but he did not stop working for a second.
Atkinson takes Toure’s advice
In the aftermath of City crashing out of the FA Cup at the semi-final stage, Toure suggested that the Manchester derby should be played without a referee, such was his frustration with the officials at Wembley. Well Yaya, it appeared that you got your wish. Martin Atkinson ignored foul after foul during the game, especially in the first half when he was clearly trying to allow the game to flow. Otamendi, in particular, was lucky to escape an early yellow card, while Rashford, Martial and Sterling were all ignored when clearly blocked or tripped up. Only when Ander Herrera and Fernandinho squared up to each other did the referee finally blow his whistle, but both sides will feel aggrieved with how this fixture was governed, particularly in the first 45. He did get the Marouane Fellaini sending off absolutely spot-on, however, and, credit to Atkinson, defused the situation expertly.
Champions League pendulum
Herrera said at the start of the week that whoever won the derby would secure their top-four finish so a draw is not really what either side wanted, although Liverpool will be the most pleased. The Champions League picture is no clearer than it was at the start of play but City will certainly be the happier of the two. United’s have the much harder run-in, facing both Arsenal and Tottenham in north London, as well as fighting to win the Europa League. You can’t help but feel that only a win on Thursday night would have persuaded Mourinho a top-four finish is the best chance of Champions League football. Surely he will go all out in the Europa League now instead.