https://www.sportinglife.com –Graham Ruthven analyses Manchester United’s win at Manchester City
Did Kevin De Bruyne’s return disrupt the balance of the team?
After 21 games, Manchester City’s winning run is over. Graham Ruthven picks apart the weaknesses Manchester United successfully exposed in their 2-0 win.
Pep Guardiola’s side will almost certainly still win a third Premier League title in four years, but future opponents will take encouragement from the way Manchester United exposed some of their weaknesses.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed a performance and a result like this to prove he can handle the big games, with this United’s first victory over a ‘Big Six’ side in the league this season.
Martial shows how good he really is
Last season was Anthony Martial’s best as a Manchester United player, with the Frenchman notching 17 goals and six assists in the Premier League.
This suggested Solskjaer had found Martial’s long-term position, but his underwhelming performances this season have called into his question his future at Old Trafford.
Erling Haaland has been mentioned as a summer target with many of the believe United need a new number nine, but this display showed why they mustn’t give up on Martial.
It took the 25-year-old just two minutes to win the penalty that sent his team on their way, with Martial impressive throughout.
Martial still managed to spurn a golden opportunity to score, shooting straight at Ederson when he should have found the back of the net, but the Frenchman is crucial to the way United play in games like this, acting as the apex of passing triangles between Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford.
While his finishing could be sharpened, Martial is still a valuable player to Solskjaer.
Should Henderson be Man Utd’s first choice keeper?
This was Dean Henderson’s big chance to underline his credentials as Manchester United’s next number one goalkeeper and he grasped it, with the 23-year-old keeping a clean sheet at the home of the Premier League’s top goalscorers.
Henderson might have expected a bit more from Manchester City, but he still faced six shots on targets and made a number of important saves.
What’s more, there was an assurance to the United defensive line that hasn’t always been there with David de Gea between the posts this season.
This could be the deciding factor in Solskjaer sticking with Henderson as his first choice goalkeeper between now and the end of the season.
Manchester United need commanding figures at the back and the 23-year-old looks to be that sort of character. If Solskjaer isn’t willing to give Henderson a run of games now, when will he ever be?
Are Manchester City a better team without De Bruyne?
There’s a strong argument that Kevin De Bruyne is the most naturally talented player in the Premier League.
The Belgian is a generational talent and the player who has defined the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City more than any other. But there’s also a strong argument that at this moment in time, City are better without him.
Guardiola made a big call by dropping Bernardo Silva to the bench for this match.
The Portuguese midfielder had notched two goals and four assists in his last six appearances and so the decision to omit him from the starting lineup for one of the most important games of the season came as something of a surprise.
With Bernardo and Ilkay Gundogan breaking the lines of transition from deep, City are a difficult team to defend against, but with De Bruyne pulling the strings Manchester United had more time to organise and plug the gaps.
As unlikely as it would have been just a few months ago, City might now be a better, certainly a more potent, team with other options over de Bruyne.
Solskjaer knows how to beat Guardiola
Frequently derided for a perceived lack of tactical nous, it is somewhat surprising that Solskjaer has a higher win percentage in games against Guardiola, widely revered as one of the best tacticians of his generation, than any other Premier League manager, with this the Norwegian’s third league win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Until Sunday, United’s record against the traditional ‘Big Six’ clubs had left a lot to be desired, with the Old Trafford outfit failing to score in their last five games against such opposition.
City, however, consistently allow Solskjaer to play to his strengths as a coach, and they did it again here.
Solskjaer’s United side are most dangerous on the counter attack and City afforded them plenty space to exploit.
Rashford and Luke Shaw in particular consistently targeted the area in behind Joao Cancelo as Guardiola failed to adapt. There’s just something about this United team that City can’t handle at home.