MAN UTD 1, MAN CITY 3
Pep Guardiola erred on the side of caution even though Manchester City appear to certain to reach a third Carabao Cup final in a row.
City’s manager was delighted with his side’s emphatic victory at Manchester City in the first leg of the semi-final.
“We are close to the final but many things can happen in a football match and United scored two goals against us in the Premier League at the Etihad where they showed what they are capable of doing,” he said while also referring to how the Reds produced a remarkable recovery at Paris St Germain in the Champions League.
United were unable to live with City in the opening half when they were 3-0 ahead inside 38 minutes and ought to have been further ahead at the break as Bernardo Silva, scorer of the opening goal, later lamented.Embed from Getty Images
“You don’t expect to score four or five goals at Old Trafford in 45 minutes – three was good enough,” he continued.
“What happened in the second half showed they (United) are dangerous and it was a warning to our players.”
Guardiola could not fault his side’s first-half display saying it was on a par with ones against Leicester and Tottenham earlier in the campaign.
City extended their excellent record at Old Trafford where they have now won seven times in 10 visits in all competitions.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted the spell from City’s opening goal to half-time was his worst as Reds’ manager.
He said: “At half time I told the players we still had three 45 minutes to play. We had to make sure we won the second half and at least give us something to hang on to.
“We had a good response. It is a steep mountain but we can climb it.”
Solskjaer added his side failed to cope with the setback suffered in the opening half.
“It is natural head drop when things are not going well, but we have to get out of it quicker,” he said.
United made six changes from the side that played at Wolves on Saturday in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup.
Victor Lindelof and Brandon Williams remained in defence, Andreas Pereira in midfield and forwards Daniel James and Mason Greenwood.
There were recalls for David De Gea in goal, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Phil Jones in the back line, Fred in midfield with Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford restored to the front positions.
City have only three survivors from the side that started their FA Cup tie against Port Vale – Claudio Bravo, Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva who was a false nine as Guardiola surprisingly had striker Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus on the bench.
Kevin De Bruyne, who has played a deep lying role recently, was also pushed forward to also become a false nine.
After an uneventful opening, City made a 17th minute breakthrough with a goal out of nothing from Bernardo Silva, his seventh of the season.
Kyle Walker provided the assist for Bernardo who put in from the right and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner from 22 yards.
Raheem Sterling could have doubled the lead but his shot and follow-up were blocked by Lindelof and Jones.
City were celebrating again as Mahrez made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute after Lindelof was twice at fault.
His poor headed defensive clearance fell to Bernardo Silva who threaded a pass to Mahrez which Lindelof failed to cut out as the City man waltzed clean and coolly rounded De Gea to score his eighth of the season..
United unravelled further when City added a third goal in the 38th minute on the break.
Mahrez burst forward and Williams’ covering tackle went to De Bruyne whose angled shot was saved by De Gea only to rebound into his own goal off the unlucky Pereira.
The goal was subjected to a VAR check as there was a suspicion Mahrez shoved Williams off the ball.
It might have been even more embarrassing for the Reds as late in the half Bernardo Silva beat the offside trap only to be denied by De Gea while Sterling, sliding in, just failed to connect with De Bruyne’s cross from a matter of yards.
United, in need of midfield solidity, brought on Nemanja Matic for Lingard at the restart.
Mahrez was twice denied by the legs of De Gea as City went for a fourth goal.
United were in need of divine intervention so called on Angel Gomes for help midway through the half when he replaced James.
And Gomes won the ball in midfield in the build up to Marcus Rashford’s 70th minute consolation goal, his 17th of the season.
Greenwood broke and released Rashford who, from the right of the box, fired low into the far corner as United’s suffering supporters finally had something to cheer.
City’s first change with 10 minutes left was as a precaution after De Bruyne picked up a knock after being flattened and he was replaced by Jesus.
United’s final substitution was a straight striker swop as Greenwood made way for Anthony Martial.