Marcus Rashford opened the scoring from the penalty spot after being brought down by Bernardo Silva
Anthony Martial then made it 2-0 when he swivelled and sent a fine left foot shot past Ederson
At the end of the first half Man City saw a penalty appeal rejected after Fred handled Kyle Walker’s cross
Nicolas Otamendi headed home a late consolation after escaping the attentions of Aaron Wan-Bissaka
Liverpool are now 14 points clear of the reigning champions, a gap that has never been overturned before
Whatever happened to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United – and few have been betting on long stay – at least he would always have Paris, the giddy night back in March, where an extraordinary run of victories culminated in an outstanding performance at Paris St Germain, which secured him the manager’s job.
Well, now he has something to equal Paris; something to surpass it; something, he will hope, that proves more substantive. He has an evening to relish at the Etihad, a performance which bettered anything his team has produced thus far under his reign and a derby victory that will live long in the memory. More importantly, playing like this, he has a future as a Manchester United manager.
This was the United the club envisioned when Solskjaer was appointed: audacious, exhilarating, fearless. It was a throwback, even if it was a victory conceived in counter attack, with Sir Alex Ferguson beaming in the stands. ‘We do look like a Manchester United team,’ said Solskjaer afterwards.
Marcus Rashford gave Manchester United a deserved 1-0 lead with a coolly-taken penalty in the first half at The Etihad
Minutes later, Anthony Martial swivelled and dispatched a left foot shot inside the near post to double United’s lead
City dominated the second half but they were unable to spark a comeback despite Nicolas Otamendi’s late header
Rashford and de Gea embraced after full time as United withstood a late onslaught from the Premier League champions
A simple sentence yet it conveyed so much. Only sporadically in the past six years have they done so. That it came on the back of a 2-1 win over Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham suggested something more significant than we have previously seen.
Two games do not make a coaching reputation yet the opening thirty minutes was Solskjaer’s finest tactical moment. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have eviscerated City and Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid did the same to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich. Solkskjaer has yet to prove he exists in such company but here was a game plan perfectly designed and superbly implemented.
Marcus Rashford, Daniel James, Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard may be raw. They might not be the world’s greatest attacking force. But they are quick. How they showed it here. The score-line made it look close. In reality, in as scintillating a display of football as we have seen this season, United took City apart in the opening 30 minutes. They should have been 4-0 up.
‘That’s Manchester United,’ said Solskjaer. ‘You can call it counter attacking. For me it’s quick, attacking, flowing football with the right intent. I wouldn’t want James. Lingard, Rashford and Martial running at me!’ In preparation, Solskjaer had checked the videos of last season’s encounters with City. ‘It wasn’t nice to see that City are so much better than us,’ he said. ‘But today we came away with some dignity.’ And the points.
Pep Guardiola’s side were undone by a perfectly executed gameplan designed by United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Scott McTominay was instrumental for Manchester United once again after a super display in the win over Tottenham
Fred, who has struggled so often this season, impressed as he hustled and harried City’s midfielders in the opening 30 mins
Jesse Lingard went close with an early effort as the pace and movement of United’s front four cut City open time and again
There are times when Manchester City, for all their consistent excellence, simply disintegrate. Pep Guardiola is so convinced of the his tactical plan, that he perhaps forgets he’s playing 34-year-old Fernandinho and an unsteady John Stones as centre halves. As such, asking Angelino taking up a position on the left wing, with Kyle Walker also getting forward might seem unnecessarily brave.
Guardiola claimed it wasn’t so bad – ‘we conceded four counter attacks’ he surmised – but for a thirty minute spell, were cut asunder. And being fourteen points adrift of Liverpool is an astonishing gap which no one envisaged at the start of the season.
‘We have to continue,’ said Guardiola. ‘We’re going to try. And if we’re not able we’re going to try next season.’ It wasn’t quite a concession. But it was close.
At the heart of this win were Scot McTominay and Fred, water carriers in midfield, sitting deep, picking up scraps and then immediately delivering the ball into Lingard, Rashford, Martial and James. Time and time again they exposed Angelino at left back and City’s back four in general. It was a steal straight from Klopp’s playbook but that won’t massively worry United.
United were awarded a penalty on 23 minutes following a VAR review after Rashford was bundled over by Benardo Silva
Rashford showed wonderful composure as he sent Ederson the wrong way at the end of a stuttered run up
Rashford has now scored 16 goals in 27 games in all competitions this season and four in his last four games
From James in the second minute. Lingard on eight minutes and Martial on 16 minutes, United were exposing City from the start. Thus, it was no surprise when Rashford, dribbling with pace inside the area, won himself a penalty after being barged aside by Bernardo Silva. Unfazed by the cacophony of boos, Rashford stuttered in his run up and slipped it past Ederson into the right hand corner.
More was coming. Rashford had another superb chance arrived on 25 minutes, with Fred playing him in. Yet on this occasion he did lose his head, placing his shot well wide rather than adding the second. He did better on 27 minutes, curling a ball towards the top corner only to see it rebound off the bar. City were discombobulated.
United’s second on 29 minutes underscored the point. Initially it looked as though the moment had gone, when Martial failed to play in James. Yet the pair took stock, weighed up their options and simply played a series of passes around Fernandinho, Rodri and Angelino at the end of which Martial shot into the bottom corner.
Six minutes after Rashford’s opener, Martial made it 2-0 when he deceived Ederson with a brilliant near post finish
Minutes after Martial’s goal, Gabriel Jesus squandered a chance to pull a goal back when he headed wide of goal
City also saw a strong appeal for a penalty dismissed by VAR after Fred had handled Kyle Walker’s cross from the right wing
There had to be reaction. It came belatedly in the half, on 38 minutes, when Kevin De Bruyne swung in a cross for Gabriel Jesus but the Brazilian headed wide. Everything was turning against City. In added time of the half, it seemed their moment had come when Walker drilled in a cross and Fred slipped and handled, but no penalty was given. Guardiola looked apoplectic. Yet the laws state if a player is falling, then a hand thrust out to balance should not be punished.
The second half would, naturally, be very different tactical beast. Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof were excellent but Aaron Wan Bissaka excelled against Raheem Sterling, imposing both physique and personality on the England winger.
When it looked as though De Bruyne was in to score on 56 minutes, it was Lindelof who slid in desperately and deflected it away, a little punch of the air indicating his satisfaction and the importance of the moment. A few minutes later, when Lindelof lost the ball to Sterling and the winger cut across the penalty area searching for a chance to shot, it was Wan-Bissaka who got a crucial foot in to turn it away. And when Rodri struck from long range, David De Gea flew to his right to tip over.
They held their ground until the 85th minute, when a De Bruyne corner swung in to meet the head of Nicolas Otamendi to set up a thrilling finale. Within a minute, De Gea was having to dive to his right to save from Riyad Mahrez. Yet, for City, that would prove the last incision of note. And, at the end of it all, in a small corner of the Etihad, a group of United fans raucously acknowledged their team and their leader. He had scored a notable victory; perhaps even a defining one.
Aaron Wan Bissaka excelled against Raheem Sterling, imposing both physique and personality on the England winger
City applied pressure in the second half and pulled a goal back late on when Otamendi headed past David De Gea
Victory gives Solskjaer further credibility on the back of an impressive 2-1 win over Tottenham on Wednesday night
Rashford climbed over the advertising boards to give his match shirt to a United fan after the final whistle.