Man United in the title race after controversial City win

MANCHESTER – Marcus Rashford scored in a seventh successive game as Manchester United overturned a 1-0 deficit to beat champions Manchester City 2-1, but it was a controversial turnaround in the Manchester derby at Old Trafford.

After a cagey first half, Jack Grealish’s opener looked to have put City on course for a Premier League win against United.

But Bruno Fernandes’ equalizer – at home with Rashford clearly offside next to him – leveled the scores and Rashford’s winner four minutes later sealed a huge win for the home side. But the dust will not settle on this one for some time.

Jump to: Best/Worst Performers | Highlights and notable moments | Postmatch Quotes | Key Stats | Upcoming fixtures

Rapid reaction

1. United in the title race after controversial win over City

Man United are now in the Premier League title race after fighting back from a goal down against City to move within six points of leaders Arsenal – who they play a week on Sunday at the Emirates.

In one of the most dramatic Manchester derbies in recent times, United’s failure to capitalize on a number of first-half chances cost them when substitute Grealish headed City in front from a Kevin De Bruyne cross on 60 minutes.

But a controversial equalizer from Fernandes in the 78th minute got United back into the game and caused anger in the City ranks. With Rashford clearly offside when the ball was played into the middle, the United forwards charged through but left the ball for Fernandes to score from 20 yards and the offside flag was raised. But referee Stuart Attwell overruled his assistant because Rashford, while attempting to interfere with play near his teammate, did not actually touch the ball.

Four minutes later, Rashford then added insult to injury as he took his post-World Cup tally to eight goals in seven games by scoring the winner from close range.

It was an incredible finish and after the win in the game, United now move to within a point of Champions City, while Erik ten Hag’s team know that a win at the Emirates next week will put them firmly in the title race. United are the only team to beat Arsenal this season, winning 3-2 at Old Trafford earlier in the campaign.

After losing 6-3 at City in October, United bounced back impressively under Ten Hag and the performance was a sign of their incredible progress under the former Ajax coach.

In turn, City’s defeat highlighted concerns for Pep Guardiola’s team. It was their second straight loss after a shock Carabao Cup defeat at Southampton in midweek and they now face a battle to avoid finishing below United in the league for the first time since 2013.

2. Guardiola needs to fix off-day bluntness

Manchester City have an incredible array of attacking talent, but Guardiola will be concerned about their lack of cutting edge away from home. It cost them the points in the game.

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Grealish’s header against United was just City’s sixth goal in their last eight games in all competitions, with half of those coming in a 3-1 win at Leeds last month.

One theory in play about City’s comparative openness away from home is that teams have believed most of the threat comes from Erling Haaland, so the objective is to stop the Norway international and cut off his supply line. And the approach worked. Haaland scored twice against Leeds at Elland Road, but the goals were his first away from home since September.

The former Borussia Dortmund forward was quiet against United until Anon. And although United were always wary of the threat he posed, they knew that City did not attack in the same wave-after-wave fashion as they once did under Guardiola.

The breakthrough only came when Kevin De Bruyne burst into the penalty area and crossed to the far post for Grealish to score on 60 minutes.

If City are to catch Arsenal at the top of the table, they will have to step up and score more goals away from home as they are in danger of losing touch at the top.

3. Martial running out of chances at United

Anthony Martial lasted just 45 minutes of the game and it’s fair to say the United forward won’t have too much to look back on when he remembers the derby.

The 27-year-old started as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation and contributed nothing beyond straying offside too often and angering the home supporters when he failed to press City goalkeeper Ederson when the Brazil international was allowed Time and space to clear the ball.

Martial has been one of the great survivors at United since arriving from Monaco in August 2015, but many would suggest he is still reliving the memories of a stunning debut goal against Liverpool a month later.

Since then, he has been a frustrating performer, consistently failing to live up to his potential and both Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer tried and failed to offload him during their spells as United manager.

Martial is now in his eighth season at Old Trafford, but his performance against City underlined the belief that his days are now numbered under Erik ten Hag.

The loan signing of Wout Weghorst will put pressure on Martial for his place in the squad, while in the long term, United are already planning to sign a world-class center forward in the summer. But with just three league goals so far this season, it is clear that Martial is not up to the requirements at United and his poor performance against City proved it.

Best and worst performers

Best: Tyrell Malacia – The United left-back showed tenacity all game and he rose to the challenge of marking Riyad Mahrez.

Best: Bruno Fernandes – The American captain showed real leadership qualities and inspired the comeback with the opening goal. How long before he gets the captaincy full time?

Best: Kevin De Bruyne – A cagey game needed a moment of quality and De Bruyne delivered with a great run and accurate cross for Grealish to head in the opener for City.

Worst: Anthony Martial – was off the pace, offside or both. Not good enough for a team in the top four.

Worst: Phil Foden – The City forward scored a hat-trick against United at the Etihad earlier this season but barely touched the ball at Old Trafford.

Worst: Erling Haaland – No goals and no impact from the City striker. Now three games without a goal, which is his worst run of the season.

Highlights and notable moments

Grealish came off the bench in the 56th minute and scored in the 59th.

Man United scored a controversial equaliser.

Then Rashford scored the winner just three minutes later.

After the match: What the players/managers said

Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag on Bruno Fernandes’ controversial goal to BT Sport: “I can also see it from the other side. The rules, it is a confusing moment for the back line of the opponent. The rules say that Marcus did not touch the ball and he is not interfering. Bruno came from the back – – But I can see it from the other side.”

On Rashford recovering from injury: “Players must be resilient. You get kicked in a game. It happened and it hurts but you have to continue. You have to do it to get the right result and performance. Deal with the painful moment and the game will go on. In top football you have to suffer and sacrifice to get the right result. The belief is back and we are in a good direction. You have to work out of possession [against teams like City]. They have split-moment qualities to score goals. We saw that today. One mistake and they scored.”

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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola to BBC Match of the Day: “Marcus Rashford is offside, Bruno Fernandes is not. Rashford distracted our keeper and centre-back. It is what it is. We know where we are playing. It is difficult for the referees in the stadiums.”

On the game: “Congratulations to United. People will understand how good Manchester City are. It was a fantastic game. We controlled the transitions better in the second half against Rashford and very fast players. We have the right spirit to do it. We are Close and we have to improve when we give the goal, be more stable, the gap between the first and second goal is too close. In general I have no regrets. I don’t care if we don’t win the Carabao Cup or the Premier League, we will try. I do not care when a team performs as we play. It was quite similar to the many, many years we have been here. There are many points to play for and we have to play there. In every game we have to perform. We always play in these kinds of games and in others we struggle a little bit.”

Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats and Information Research)

– This was the 189th edition of the Manchester derby in all competitions: Manchester United lead the series 78-58-53 (WLD) now.

– Grealish scored his second career goal in a Premier League game against Manchester United. His first came on 1 December 2019 when he played for Aston Villa.

– Kevin De Bruyne registered his 10th assist this season in the Premier League. He joins Lionel Messi and Neymar (PSG) as the only players from the top 5 leagues in Europe with 10+ assists this season (league play only).

– Marcus Rashford tied Manchester United’s club record for most consecutive home scoring games with Denis Violette, who achieved the feat from August to December in 1959.

– Manchester United has two goals, both coming after the 75th minute. They now lead the Premier League in most goals scored between the 76-90 minutes.

Up next

Man United: An away trip to Crystal Palace comes on January 18, before they travel to league leaders Arsenal on January 22.

Man City: Three more home games in a row, with Tottenham Hotspur (January 19) and Wolves (January 22) in the Premier League, then Arsenal in the FA Cup on January 27.


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