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Five Things Learned: Manchester City 3-1 Manchester United (Premier League)



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Manchester City rubber-stamped their superiority over neighbours Manchester United with a dominant 3-1 victory on Sunday afternoon, completing the league double over Erik ten Hag’s men this season.

The Blues had won five of the previous six derby meetings coming into this one and from early on it was apparent that their rivals were going to try the ‘dig in and nick something’ tactic, which worked so well for them during Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s time in charge.

That plan got off to the best possible start for Manchester United too, as with their first foray up the pitch, Bruno Fernandes tee’d up Marcus Rashford for an admittedly fabulous strike off the underside of the crossbar and in beyond a helpless Ederson.

If the smash-and-grab nature of that opener had Manchester City fans fearing the worst, the rest of the chance-laden first-half would have only increased frustrations and nerves, with Erling Haaland’s unfathomable miss from three yards with the goal gaping a particularly perplexing moment.

Phil Foden was not about to lie down and allow this one to slip away though; the Englishman had squandered a big opportunity from the right-wing in the opening period, but ten minutes into the second, he cut inside from the same position and rifled a blockbuster equaliser into Andre Onana’s top corner.

Manchester United couldn’t contain the 23-year-old from there, and whilst it took until the 80th minute, he eventually struck the winner; switching over to the left under Pep Guardiola’s instructions, exchanging passes with Julian Alvarez, and sliding the ball under Onana and in to send the Etihad Stadium wild once more.

The visitors never laid a glove on Manchester City even with the deficit at just one, and then Erling Haaland made amends for his first-half clanger by wrapping things up in stoppage time, as Rodri robbed the hapless Sofyan Amrabat and sent the Norwegian through to apply his trademark finish and bag his sixth goal in just five derbies.

The party atmosphere was palpable in the stadium afterwards, as Manchester City celebrated getting their mammoth month of March off to the best possible start. Revel in the derby delight and enjoy Five Things We Learned from Sunday’s 3-1 beating of Manchester United!

‘The Sniper’ can strike from anywhere

Much has been made in the last few months of Phil Foden’s position at Manchester City, with the ‘Stockport Iniesta’ thriving centrally prior to Kevin de Bruyne’s return from injury and since being shifted back out wide.

He lined up from the right against Manchester United, and whilst it’s not his favoured role, he was involved in the game throughout and got his goals from positions on either flank.

Every City fan wants to see Phil Foden through the middle and pulling all the attacking strings, but for the sake of the team’s balance, it looks like Pep Guardiola – who later labelled his star “the best player in the Premier League right now” – can stick him anywhere and give him free reign to work his magic.

Better to be boring than open?

Whilst it’s important never to give too much credence to the opinions of bitter rivals, one criticism that Manchester City fans will be all too familiar with from recent years is that it’s ‘boring’ to watch the Blues play, and that their victories feel ‘inevitable’.

This season has had anything but that air of invincibility, even at the Etihad Stadium, with Marcus Rashford’s opener making it 11 goals conceded in just six matches against the ‘Big Six’ this term, with Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs still to play.

Nobody can claim that City haven’t taken part in some thrilling matches, but do the ultra-aggressive high line which United seized on to score and the more direct attacking style make them more vulnerable? Admittedly, that thumping Phil Foden goal was anything but controlling.

Brainy Bernardo

When Manchester City DO want to stick their foot on the ball and lower the tempo, Bernardo Silva is the man they look towards to set the tone.

At one point in Sunday afternoon’s fractious and frenetic first-half, the Portuguese literally stopped on the ball and raised his arms to instruct his teammates to calm down and collect themselves, a fascinating insight into his tactical understanding.

The departure of Ilkay Gundogan undoubtedly harmed Manchester City’s ability to play the game at whatever speed they desire, but having Bernardo to more or less act as an extension of Pep Guardiola on the pitch is just one reason why the club are so intent on keeping the midfielder around every summer.

Doku a rough diamond who will need polishing

When Manchester City signed Jeremy Doku from Stade Rennes in the summer, nobody predicted that he’d get off to the flying start he did in the Premier League, immediately becoming the focal point of much of his team’s attacking play.

The last few months have been trickier for the Belgian, and he’s fielded criticism for the impact he has on that control that Manchester City have lacked in big games that’s already been mentioned, as well as for the inconsistent end product which was on show again against Manchester United.

We know by now that most new signings take at least a season to bed into Pep Guardiola’s system, and at just 21, Doku has all the raw materials to be moulded into a top, top player.

Title race could go down to the wire

After seeing Liverpool’s controversial late win over Nottingham Forest on Saturday, and with Arsenal big favourites to defeat bottom side Sheffield United on Monday night, Manchester City knew that this was a must-win to give themselves any chance of going top of the league when they travel to Anfield next week.

Add that to the pressure of it being a derby and to going a goal down early in the game, the mental fortitude shown by City get their first ever win from behind against United was proof that there’s still so much fight left in this team.

City know they’ll have to ward off two exceptional sides if they’re to claim that unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League crown, but they’ve got this crunch month in which they’ll face both those teams off to a flier.