MAN CITY 1, MAN UNITED 2
Manchester City’s Premier League title defence is dead after their home derby defeat to a rejuvenated United.
It has been known for some time, but this result confirmed those doubts with City remaining third and 14 points behind leaders Liverpool.
No team in top-flight history has pegged back such a deficit and City have now dropped as many points as in the whole of last season – 16 with less than half the season completed.
It is also Guardiola’s worst-ever start to a season in his managerial career with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City.
While there was disappointment for City manager Pep Guardiola, there was palpable relief as well as unbridled joy for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer whose side is up to fifth place after goals from Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial sealed victory.
There was talk a week ago that defeats to Tottenham and City may be would cost him his job.
In the space of three days Solskjaer, who never won at City as a player, claimed the scalps of Jose Mourinho and Guardiola as his stock has risen considerably.Embed from Getty Images
He said: “We’ll remember this one. We looked so dangerous when we got the ball and went forward against arguably the best team in the world.
“I was so happy how we started the game and created not only chances, but big chances.
“We looked like we could score every time we got the ball. We went for the kill and could have been three or four ahead.
“City are the best team in the world and so hard to defend against as they are so good, but I was pleased how we dealt with everything.”
Guardiola added the reality is City are 14 points behind Liverpool and it is important not to give up.
City’s manager would not criticise his side saying they it has played the way he wants to in every game.
“We arrived in the final third many, many times but could not finish,” he said.
Guardiola admitted his side struggled against United’s counter attacks.
“It is the way we play as teams defend deep and hit us on counter attacks which United did well through Rashford and Martial who are dangerous,” he said.
It was sad a terrific 179th Manchester derby was overshadowed by racist abuse caught on camera against Fred and Jesse Lingard as United prepared to take a corner.
Solskjaer explained the alleged perpetrator should never be allowed into a game again.
He said: “These things are happening every week and there should be consequences.
“It is an act of ignorance. It is not City’s fault and is nothing to do with them. This person should be educated.”
City put out a statement saying they are working with Greater Manchester Police to identify any individuals concerned and also who threw objects on to the pitch.
“The club operates a zero tolerance policy regarding discrimination of any kind and anyone found guilty of racial abuse will be banned from the club for life,” the statement said.
United made two changes from the side that beat Tottenham in midweek.
Martial was back after injury and there was a start for Luke Shaw as Ashley Young and Mason Greenwood lost out.
City had one change from the midweek win at Burnley with John Stones preferred to Nicolas Otamendi in the centre of defence.
There was an electric atmosphere at the Etihad and a lively start from both teams.
United had the opening chance in the second minute when Martial and Fred combined to set up Daniel James whose fiercely struck angled shot was beaten away by Ederson.
Jesse Lingard was put through only to see his shot saved by the legs of Ederson as United had the two clearest chances of the opening 10 minutes.
City had a penalty appeal rejected as Victor Lindelof, sliding in to clear, saw the ball bounce up and strike him on the arm, though it was clearly unintentional.
Ederson was called into action again to beat out a Rashford shot which followed a cut back by James as United continued to carve out the better chances.
United took the lead in the 23rd minute after the intervention of VAR ruled that Bernardo Silva had fouled Rashford after referee Anthony Taylor had rejected the appeal.
Rashford, who needed treatment, picked himself up to score his 13th goal in 14 games for club and country.
And Rashford had two chances to extend the lead soon afterwards.
The first after a break saw Fred square a pass to Rashford who shot wide and that was followed Martial set up Rashford whose shot hit the bar.
United were finally rewarded with a second goal in the 29th minute after James provided the assist for Martial to fire a shot low in off the near post to leave the City fans stunned.
City had a chance to halve the deficit but a flying header from Gabriel Jesus flew wide after a cross from Kevin De Bruyne who then saw his free kick land on the roof of the net.
And City were denied a penalty in stoppage time after a VAR ruling that Fred, sliding in to block, did not handle the ball intentionally.
City’s night got worse just short of the hour when Stones limped off to be replaced by Otamendi.
United successfully negotiated the opening 15 minutes of the half without mishap, though Lindelof came to the rescue deflecting De Bruyne’s shot for a corner.
City’s best chance of the game came midway through the second half when Rodrigo’s drive was superbly tipped over the bar by David De Gea.
Guardiola made a second change when Bernardo Silva made way for Riyad Mahrez.
Ederson was called into action to turn Lingard’s angled shot round the post for a corner.
Otamendi went close with a diving header from a corner as City still could not find a route to goal.
United made their first change with 16 minutes left as Martial made way for Andreas Pereira who was immediately booked for a cynical trip on Raheem Sterling.
City were handed a lifeline five minutes from time when Otamendi he halved the deficit when he got in-between Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire to head home Mahrez’s corner from six yards.
The goal lifted the crowd and the team and moments later De Gea pulled off a super save to deny Mahrez, a defining moment in the match.
United made their last two changes with little over one minute to go when Luke Shaw and Lingard made way for Ashley Young and Axel Tuanzebe.
City also made their final substitution, Ilkay Gundogan for Rodrigo.
Despite five minutes of stoppage time, City were unable to find an equaliser as United defended resolutely to the end.