The 176th Manchester derby, a match which will forever be a part of the Manchester United folklore, saw the Reds come from behind to dismantle Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City 3-2 in a pulsating encounter at the Etihad. A classic game of two halves saw both the sides dominate proceedings on either side of the half-time.
While City, who would have sealed the Premier League title had they defeated their neighbours, called the shots in the first half where they added two goals through Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan, United replied in the second half, twice through Paul Pogba and then the winner, courtesy Chris Smalling.
Pogba’s two goals, which were scored within 97 seconds of each other early in the second half, and Smalling’s 69th-minute winner ensured that United beat all of their top six rivals – City, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal – at least once in the league. Here are the three things which helped United overcome their city rivals despite going two goals down in the first half.
1 Coming out swinging despite the two-goal deficit
After City had taken a two-goal lead through Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan in the first half, United’s cause seemed lost. The visitors were sitting back, allowing the City players to ping the ball around and send in waves after waves of attack. There was no sense of urgency shown by the United players in the first half.
However, the team which played the second half was in complete contrast to the one which turned out in the first. With nothing much to lose, Jose Mourinho’s men came out with all guns blazing in the second half.
A couple of corners, within minutes of the re-start, were soon followed by United’s first goal. Pogba doubled the lead soon after as United kept up the tempo and Smalling then completed their turnaround from a set-piece in the 63rd minute.
2 Unite decided to hit the blot even after equalizer
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United might have made a name for themselves for their defensive stability but their will to attack has been found missing on many occasions.
After Kompany had thumped a Leroy Sane cross into David de Gea’s goal in the 25th minute and six minutes later, Gundogan doubled City’s lead through a sublime finish, where he rounded off Matic before slotting the ball in the bottom corner, Manchester City were marching on to the Premier League title.
However, a spirited start to the second half saw them get two goals in quick succession. In such situations, one would expect a Mourinho side to shut shop after getting the equaliser, more so in a match of such magnitude where a draw would still have spoiled City’s party and extended their wait for the PL title.
However, there was no parking of the bus from Mourinho. Even after Pogba and United’s second goal, the players from the Red half of Manchester kept their tempo up. Their momentum and the will to keep the ball for longer durations than you’d expect from them frustrated the City players, who gave away as many as 17 fouls and were shown six yellow cards.
One of those fouls ended up costing the hosts as Sanchez delivered in a free-kick from the left which Smalling met unchallenged and turned it into the net
3. Pogba and Sanchez were absolutely beastly
Pogba was anonymous in the first half and was being run-over by the City midfield. United’s latest singing and one who chose them over City, Sanchez, wasn’t impressive either. However, in the second half of the match, two of United’s most crucial players came into their own and took it upon themselves to take the team through.
After Pogba was allowed to drive forward in the second half, two of his late runs resulted in a goal each while Sanchez had a role to play in all three of United goals.
The Chilean’s cross was shouldered down by Ander Herrera in Pogba’s path, who calmly clipped the ball over Ederson for the visitors’ first goal. 97 second later, the winger found the French midfield general with a searching pass over the defence who headed the ball past the City goalkeeper to equalise.
Sanchez, on the other hand, wasn’t done yet and a free-kick from him fell perfectly on Smalling’s boots who blasted it past Ederson and into the net. Both these players will take a lot of confidence from their second-half performance.