Liverpool is running away with the title in the English Premier League and they got some unexpected assistance from their eternal arch-rivals Manchester United over the weekend. The Manchester Derby, already fourth this season, took place at United’s home Old Trafford, where City had taken three consecutive wins in EFL Cup and Premier League. All of the derbies had finished with the visiting team winning and the home side United came into the match as clear underdogs.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had already shown some signs of improvement from their less than glorious first half of the season. After the disastrous loss to Burnley at home on 22nd of January, United had gone nine games unbeaten in all competitions, including two wins and two losses in Premier League – and an away win in EFL Cup against City. Pep Guardiola’s City had already given up the chase for the title, after all Liverpool was already some 20 points ahead, but are still in contest for FA Cup and Champions League having already hoisted the EFL Cup. Their form, while not impressive, has been trending up since the early February. Their victory over Real Madrid on the road was a highlight with the EFL Cup final win over Aston Villa and expectations were high entering the derby.
The derby itself was not such a nerve-wrecking battle as it has sometimes been. The visitors took control of the game from the start but seemed unable to create chances or even put pressure on the home team’s defense, sticking to their plan brilliantly. City seemed to be in dire need of Kevin De Bruyne’s ability to break down defenses. Despite totaling 70% of the possession and completing 386 passes, City managed only one shot on goal in the first half, easily parried by David de Gea. United, on the other hand, took advantage of their chances. Anthony Martial struck like a lightning from a clear sky after Bruno Fernandes’ brilliant lobbed free-kick and took United ahead on 30th minute.
City got even more of the possession and passed the ball around in the second half, with no avail. United held on to their lead rather easily and despite the visitors adding up pressure in the end, kept their composure until the final whistle. Scott McTominay finalized the score 2-0 from close to the midfield after a misfired long throw by City keeper Ederson.
United is relentlessly chasing the Champions League spots, being now three points behind fourth placed Chelsea at 48 and two points ahead of Wolves at 43. Manchester City is still holding the second place with 57 points, but Leicester is right at their heels, four points behind. With nine games remaining – ten for City – the fourth place is still in play for at least six teams within eight points.