Manchester City edge closer to title after derby double
Manchester United offered a faint hope to anyone looking to derail rivals City on their quest for back-to-back titles but couldn't hold out at Old Trafford.
Man. United vs Man. City: match report
It was billed as a Manchester derby to determine the final destination of this season's Premier League title. The only two possible trophy cabinets lay across town or down the East Lancs road at Anfield. Neither a positive outcome for the Old Trafford faithful, but they had their own demons to exorcise.
The first half performance from the hosts produced signs that Solskjaer had given the appropriate amount of foot to bottom required to get a reaction from United's abject performance against Everton last time out. Both sides went in at the break goalless, few clear-cut chances for either, and the Red Devils actually ahead on shots on goal. Nervous glances from Guardiola on the touchline were clear.
With possession remaining with the Manchester Blues into the second half, a decisive change was forced upon the visiting manager. Fernandinho was injured putting in a strong block on a Pogba shot and had to be replaced by Leroy Sané. An extra spark was added, one that could have easily been made earlier against an opposing midfield that offered little creativity. Three minutes after the change, the always-lively Bernardo Silva struck.
Collecting the ball on the right side of the area, an early hit seemed to take David de Gea by surprise and squeezed in at the near post. Less than 10 minutes later, the substitute Sané was fed into acres of space on the left and then let rip towards goal. The Spanish stopper will get less sympathy for his attempted save on this occasion.
The final half hour or so was played out with what felt like an acceptance from both teams that the result was already decided, and with it the league title. If Solskjaer was hoping to see the best from his so-called star players then he'll head home tonight with even more doubts. The derby may have seemed like the final challenge to City's dominance, but Burnley, Leicester and Brighton may offer more resistance as they close out the season.
Man. United vs Man. City: how it happened
Man. United vs Man. City live online: preview
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said Manchester United's home ground Old Trafford is no longer the fortress it used to be as his side look to take all three points from their neighbours, and a huge step towards back-to-back Premier League titles.
City, who are two points behind league leaders Liverpool, play their game in hand at sixth-placed United, with the home side looking to make up for lost ground in their own battle for a top four spot. The Red Devils may have only lost one league game at home this season but Guardiola, whose side have won on their last two visits to Old Trafford, is confident about what his team can do.
"Four games left and we have to win our four games to retain the title," Guardiola told reporters on Tuesday. "It's not an easy place to go but at the same time, it's a nice place to go.
"It is not as scary to go there and play when before it was maybe more difficult. We know exactly what we have to do. It's true we did better than United in the past three seasons.
"The fact they lost at Everton maybe means they are extra motivated. It's a different game when we play them, it's a derby."
Pep without De Bruyne
City will be without influential midfielder Kevin De Bruyne after he suffered a hamstring injury in the 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur over the weekend. The Belgian has already missed many games this season with knee and thigh injuries.
"We will see if he can play one or two more games and next season take care of him. We are going to speak with him, with the doctors and physios to make sure he is safe and fit," said his manager.
United come into this derby with the pressure on them to perform. Not only is a Champions League place at stake - something that could affect their influence in the transfer market - but also a group of players, and a manager, needing to prove themselves should be enough motivation to make this game a contest.
On paper, City should wipe the floor with this current United side. On the pitch, let's see...
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