Manchester Derby Post Match Review

Published on 4 March 2024 at 11:30

The Manchester Derby is always one of the most hotly anticipated matches in the English game, and in recent years it hasn’t failed to disappoint, much to the expense of the Red Devils. The Treble winners came into the game in incredible form following a comprehensive 6:2 FA Cup battering away at relegation battling Luton Town, which saw Erling Haaland in his usual fashion run riot, putting 5 past a hapless Tim Krul. The red side of Manchester also came into this fixture in very good form, barring their 2:1 home loss to Fulham the prior weekend, they were unbeaten in 2024, only dropping points in a tight knit affair against high flying Tottenham all the way back in January. A huge factor in this turn around in form for United was the breakthrough of Rasmus Hojlund, who finally began to live up to his price tag and carry Manchester United’s goalscoring burden, however with him now joining the clubs ever growing injury list, there was fear this spike in form was going to be short lived as the club now had no recognized fit striker. With Marcus Rashford filling in this role, and vowing to prove his doubters wrong, the derby felt like his perfect opportunity. 


Although a derby, City would come into the game looking ideally for a routine victory, not allowing this to unnecessarily hold them back in the title race. Marcus Rashford, however, had other ideas, as from 25 yards out he met Bruno Fernandes’ pass with a first-time strike which struck the bar as it went into the top left-hand corner. United had City shocked, taken aback, and Marcus Rashford had proven his doubters wrong. The half following this was completely City dominated, with them perched on the edge of the away team's box, however United’s low block was holding the Champions off incredibly well. Barring Rashford's two miss controls and Phil Foden’s wasteful one on one opportunity, the first half following the goal was a boring affair, right up until the 45th minute. After carefully playing the ball around United’s deep line, Rodri clipped a delightful ball to the back post which was met by Foden’s header which directed the ball right across the face of the goal, leaving the ever-clinical Erling Haaland meeting the ball 2 yards from a completely open goal. Any sane person would put their house on Haaland scoring the equaliser here, with a chance easier to score than miss for a normal human let alone Haaland you’d be stupid not to. Somehow, he hooks the ball right over the bar, no one in the ground could believe it, no one watching on TV could believe it, Haaland had produced arguably the miss of the year, and had allowed Ten Hag’s side to go into halftime with the lead. 


As City continued to dominate the second half, giving United even less of a sniff than before, it was no shock to anybody when Foden equalised in the 58th minute, as he rifled the ball into the top left corner from outside the box, a goal more than deserving to cancel out United’s incredible opener. The constant defending and chasing of the ball for Ten Hag’s men was clearly catching up with them, meaning the manager had to look to his very thin bench for reinforcements. Subbing off Jonny Evans for Willy Kambwala in a Manchester Derby is something no United fan probably ever thought they’d have to see, and that moment was very telling of the struggles the club has gone through this season. United kept holding on, however the clear mixture of United’s tired legs and City’s ruthlessness only ever meant one thing, and that very thing came in the 80th minute, as City carved the Red Devils open and Foden slotted his second past Onana. The game was done, United were falling apart, and the lacklustre and uninspiring substitutions of Antony, Amrabat and the young Forson did little to alter this fate. With Haaland getting in on the act and cooly rolling the ball past the keeper in injury time, City comfortably won the derby 3:1, keeping pace with Arsenal and Liverpool in the race for the title whilst also damaging United’s chances of salvaging a top 4 spot in what continues to be an extremely underwhelming season. 


Manchester City dominated every minute of the game, and showed just how different the quality between the opposing squads is. Even when the blues have looked poor and off the boil this season, they’ve still managed to keep themselves in the race for the title, and now they’re looking at their best again with De Bruyne finally fit again, it looks almost inevitable that they’ll end up winning the title for the 4th time on the bounce, no matter how valiant an effort Liverpool and Arsenal have put in to dethrone them. 


Manchester United on the other hand showed once again just how disjointed and a mess their squad is. Although injuries have plagued the squad, there is still no excuse for having some of those players playing in a Manchester derby, and although Jonny Evans has been playing admirably as of late, it is still a bad look for the club having him getting regular minutes in 2024. Although some would argue the poor recruitment and planning has been out of Ten Hag’s hands, the fact that one of those subs deemed useless and ruined any chance the club had of salvaging something from the game was an £85 million signing that he sanctioned, he is not immune to the criticism. It is clear the club desperately needs the new ownership, now only time will tell whether Sir Jim Ratcliffe can get the club anywhere near the level of their noisy neighbours. 


Mac Anderson

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