By Harry Ogilvie
- United remain a point behind neighbours City
- Both sides still in race for top four finish
Before the Thursday night’s Manchester Derby, United faced Burnley and came out with a convincing 2-0 away victory.
This was a pleasing result for anyone connected to United especially after the Liverpool result against Crystal Palace.
Liverpool dropping points made this game even more important for both sides of Manchester as whoever won would give them a big opportunity of finishing 3rd in the Premier League.
United started a strong side with pace being provided by Rashford up front and Martial on the wing.
The creativity in the side would be coming from Armenian magician, Henrikh Mkhitaryan who played on the opposite wing to Martial.
Mourinho without top goal scorer, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, star centre midfielder, Paul Pogba and Argentine centre half, Marcos Rojo all through injury. He was also without Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Juan Mata who are side-lined.
This left United with little to choose from, United’s defence partnership was Eric Bailly and Daley Blind due to the long list of injuries in the defence area specifically. Darmian and Valencia started in the full back positions facing City’s dangerous wide players, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling.
United Fail To Take Advantage Of Nervy Bravo
Both teams started the game well but as time went on in the first half, it was City that began to dominate possession and look increasingly threatening. They had the most chances with Aguero having numerous efforts on goal, as well as Sterling trying his luck once or twice.
United created two memorable opportunities in the opening half of the game, the first falling to Mkhitaryan whose shot was well saved by Claudio Bravo.
The second big chance came from a deadly ball in from Rashford, who whipped it straight into the back post where Herrera met the ball but failed to direct it on target.
From a United point of view, there was little to shout about and most fans would probably have been pretty disappointed with the first half considering how exciting the front three combination of Mkhitaryan, Martial and Rashford should have been.
United sat off City and allowed them to play in the first with hopes of hitting them on the counter attack. Despite not creating much going forward, Mourinho’s men defended extremely well with Bailly playing sensationally, stopping every mildly dangerous dribble through the middle from City’s attacking players.
Man United continued to let City dominate possession in the second half and stopped them from creating any clear, easy goal scoring opportunities. The pressure mounted on United’s defence. Throughout the second half, very little happened.
Fellaini Loses His Head
This was up until Marouane Fellaini tripped Aguero to earn himself a yellow card and then almost instantaneously afterwards, made a second foul on the Argentine forward.
This led to a coming together between Fellaini and Aguero and eventually Fellaini seemingly head butting him. This inevitably saw the Belgian midfielder get sent off.
He went fairly berserk after Aguero made the most of the minimal contact between their heads. Fellaini continued to protest and wave his hands in anger as he walked off the field, eventually confronting fourth official, Neil Swarbrick.
Although, the decision was controversial, it is very clear to see why referee, Martin Atkinson sent him off and it was also bloody ridiculous for Fellaini to go and commit another foul on the same man he got booked for fouling seconds before.
No Standout Performances
Normally, I would do an impressive performers paragraph in each of my reviews but in a game that had seen United create little, there is not much that can be said about United’s players.
But this is not necessarily down to them playing poorly; it’s because of how Mourinho set his side out to play.
The only player who was clearly outstanding for United was summer signing, Eric Bailly. The £30 million centre back was brilliant and put his body on the line whenever required, as well as making several extremely important tackles and interceptions.
David De Gea also deserves a mention as when called upon, he did what was needed and made some saves look incredibly effortless. United held on to keep a clean sheet after Fellaini got sent off.
This was mainly down to the stubborn United backline, more specifically to Eric Bailly and what got past Bailly, De Gea caught or parried around the posts.
The opening half hour, Rashford and Martial looked to cause problems but they saw little of the ball after that period of time.
This was overall a disappointing performance but looking at the big picture, United can still make top four and this game can be viewed more as a point gained rather than a point lost after we went down to 10 men.
However, many United fans would have hoped Mourinho would go for the game a little more and attack a poor Man City backline but this was not to be as they sat back for the most part.
Despite this, United’s defensive resilience this season has been outstanding, a big factor behind them going 24 games unbeaten.
The Manager’s View
Mourinho commented on his team’s performance and how he wanted them to perform.
He said “We wanted to be more attacking. We had very good control in the first half, but the second was more difficult.”
“We showed great resilience, against a strong team, with 10 men. It showed big character from the players,” He’s clearly pleased with the side’s defensive performance after the sending off.
The Portuguese was then questioned about his opinion on the Fellaini vs Aguero incident.
Jose said “I didn’t watch, but I can guess that it is a bit of a red card and bit of a very experienced, smart Argentinean player.” This shows he was not impressed by Aguero’s antics at all but also believes Fellaini’s stupidity gave Aguero the opportunity to go down.
He was then asked about injuries and if there was any more to add to the list. The Gaffer responded saying “Fosu-Mensah really is injured. He picked up a significant injury in the last play of the game.”
Unfortunately, it sounds like United have lost yet another player to injury. This is gutting, especially for Fosu-Mensah considering he could have been given a chance due to the injuries and now the suspension of Fellaini.
Jose Mourinho will be pleased with the final result considering the circumstances, hence why getting a point with our injuries and then going down to 10 men is fairly exceptional. If United can beat Swansea, they enter the top four, it’s in United’s hands.
There can also be similarities between this match and the game at Anfield, against Liverpool. Mourinho will be encouraging his players to push on against Swansea and after continuing their unbeaten run, he will still believe, like me, we CAN reach top four despite our failure to win games.
Any United fan should be pleased with the progress Jose Mourinho has made with United this season, having already won the EFL Cup, in the semi-final of the Europa League and in a position to grab top four from under the noses of hated rivals, Liverpool.
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