Manchester United’s struggles this season came as a no surprise to most of the Premier League followers, so accordingly countless heads were turned when United took the spoils in the first Manchester derby played at Etihad early December. City had previously suffered losses to Norwich, Wolves and Liverpool, but surely beating their rivals at home would be an easy task. But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer came and took one over Pep Guardiola, snatching a 1-2 victory in a defensive effort, which left City’s attack toothless. The teams were drawn together again in the League Cup semi-finals and Manchester City got their chance of redemption on Tuesday at Old Trafford.
Pep Guardiola showed why he has been almost unanimously touted as the best manager in the Premier League, if not the whole world. The issues City faced last time against United were long gone and the display was nothing short of marvelous, with three goals scored before the 40 minute mark. United came into the game without the likes of Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Scott McTominay, who are all suffering from various injuries. City on the other hand still have injury issues at the defensive end, but fielded quite close to their best lineup. And the difference in quality showed along with the tactical prowess of Pep Guardiola.
While the League Cup is not the first priority for either of the teams, its importance is a tad higher now when Liverpool is likely to claim the Premier League title. The Manchester derby seems more important to the fans and marketing department than the players, but getting their revenge over the rivals after an embarrassing home loss was a good statement not to count City out despite their occasional problems.
City’s 1-3 win in the semifinal first leg means that the second leg played in Etihad on 29th January is likely to be played with slightly more rotated squads. United will need a two goal win in order to go for the penalties and based on what we saw on Tuesday at Old Trafford, that’s a very long shot.