By Alex Wilson
- Rashford scores for United
- Darmian and Schneiderlin return to starting line-up
- United move within a point of 4th place
Manchester United silenced their noisy neighbours with a 1-0 victory at the Etihad, courtesy of a cool first-half finish by Marcus Rashford.
United went into today’s game knowing that a win would put them a single point behind City and right back into the chase for the fourth Champions League spot.
After bowing out of the Europa League in midweek, Louis Van Gaal now knows that a fourth place finish in the Premier League is Manchester United’s only route to Champions League football next season.
The match began with the hosts looking comfortable, putting pressure on United from the start. A shot from Jesus Navas dragged wide of goal after just seven minutes of play.
City kept possession high up the pitch for the first 15 minutes but didn’t test De Gea’s goal too frequently. De Gea saved a shot from Navas with his feet, but otherwise, the possession held by City didn’t give an end product.
Then, with their first shot of the game, United took the lead inside 16 minutes when Marcus Rashford zipped past Demichelis and slotted the ball past Joe Hart. The cool finish gave Rashford his fifth goal in eight consecutive starts for his club. Juan Mata got the assist.
The goal meant Rashford became the youngest player to score in a Manchester Derby in Premier League history.
Momentum now shifted United’s way, as they nearly doubled their lead through fellow youth sensation Anthony Martial. He turned the City defence well and then struck the ball at goal, but Hart caught it confidently.
Demichelis’ frustration in the game grew as he headed wide from a great David Silva cross on 22 minutes. Following the spoiled chance, Sterling limped off in place of Fernando after suffering an apparent groin injury.
Yaya Toure had a curling effort go just wide on half an hour, as City looked to get themselves back into the game before the end of the first half.
However, it was United who should’ve had a chance to grab a goal before the break as Rashford was released down the left of the box by a lovely flick from Schneiderlin, only for Demichelis to clatter into Rashford inside the box.
Referee Michael Oliver denied United a penalty for the incident. The match commentary panel deemed the decision a poor one upon review during the half-time break. In any case, United went into the break with the lead and momentum on their side.
The second-half saw Demichelis yet again put City’s goal under threat as he delivered a weak back-pass to keeper Joe Hart that Martial almost latched on to. Hart managed to clear his lines but subsequently injured his calf in the process as he needed to really lunge for the ball.
Caballero came on to replace Hart and was called into action immediately. A deflected shot from Martial on 53 minutes was kept out by the replacement keeper.
Manuel Pellegrini opted to go for a more attacking shape after little success in the first hour of the game, as he brought on Bony in place of Demichelis, who had a very poor afternoon.
This substitution opened a new phase of the game in which City controlled the majority of possession as United displayed their defending abilities for the remainder of the match.
Blocks from Smalling and Carrick, on separate occasions, kept Bony’s name off the scoresheet. Aguero also went another game without scoring, despite hitting the post with a fine header and then heading across goal late on.
The Argentine again missed the target in injury time after being set up beautifully by David Silva’s long ball into the box. He struck wide and left United fans relieved.
The game ended in delight for the red half of Manchester and dismay for the blue half. Man City’s run of indifferent form and results continue while United can take some real confidence from today’s match into their next game.
Manchester United: De Gea, Darmian (Fosu-Mensah 82), Smalling, Blind, Rojo (Valencia 62), Schneiderlin, Carrick, Lingard, Mata (Schweinsteiger 70), Martial, Rashford Substitutes Not Used: Romero, Fellaini, Januzaj, Memphis