Just like old times
This was one of those games that chimed with the notion of Pep Guardiola the purist against Jose Mourinho the pragmatist. Mourinho came for a point and got one, Guardiola’s team hogged possession, went in search of victory but fell short, denied by his arch nemesis’s spoiling tactics despite a late red card to Marouane Fellaini. It was like watching Barcelona versus Real Madrid lite and, given the shortage of real quality on show, offered a reflection of the work these two managers have to do in the summer to get their teams up to the level they want.
City knocked on the door, but with Aguero failing to bring his shooting boots and a shrewd linesman’s flag denying Gabriel Jesus a dramatic late winner on his long-awaited return from injury, they could not force it open. United lacked ambition going forward and retreated deeper and deeper as the game went on but, in Eric Bailly, Mourinho had a commanding figure in central defence.
Mkhitaryan the missing man again
Henrikh Mkhitaryan lasted a chastening 45 minutes against City at Old Trafford last September before being hooked at half-time and was not seen again for almost two months. The Armenian has done enough since to suggest he could be a valuable attacking asset for Jose Mourinho but this was another disappearing act against United’s bitter local rivals. He shows some lovely touches and pops up in good areas but he can drift in and out of games, and while United dropping deeper as the game progressed made life difficult for the attackers, Mkhitaryan struggled to offer the outlet on the counter-attack that Mourinho needed. He has admitted himself he has much to improve and this underlined it.
Pep must upgrade on Bravo
Claudio Bravo had one thing of note to do all game on a night when the City goalkeeper was otherwise a virtual bystander and still almost fluffed his lines. When Anthony Martial got to the left bye-line and floated over a cross, Bravo came out to meet what should have been a fairly routine punch clear. Instead, the Chilean indulged in more alternative goalkeeping of his to scoop the ball directly into the path of a disbelieving Mkhitaryan. He was fortunate that Mkhitaryan’s resulting shot was directly at him and he could smother the ball at the second attempt. A harsh appraisal? Perhaps. But the moment just underlined how little confidence Bravo inspires in those around him. Guardiola must invest in a new goalkeeper in the summer if he is serious about mounting a title challenge next season.
Man of the match - Eric Bailly
Bailly claimed in the build-up to this game that City were interested in signing him last summer and, after another commanding performance from the rapidly improving United centre-half, Guardiola may well view him as one that got away. Cool and composed, strong and timely in the tackle, as typified when he made an outstanding sliding challenge against Leroy Sane in the first half. United can ill afford to lose the Ivorian over the remaining weeks of the season.
What City need to work on this week
The sight of Gabriel Jesus entering the fray a few minutes from time was rapturously received by the City fans and Guardiola must get the Brazilian back up to speed as quickly as possible as he bids to ensure a top four spot.
What United need to work on this week
As if Mourinho did not have enough personnel problems, the loss of Fellaini for the next three matches after the red card for a brainless headbutt on Sergio Aguero was the last thing the United manager needed and he made his feelings felt to the midfielder as he trudged off the pitch. United are running out of players.