Second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and substitute Leroy Sane gave Manchester City a 2-0 derby triumph over Manchester United as Pep Guardiola’s men edged back ahead of Liverpool in the Premier League title race.
Following a humiliating 4-0 defeat at Everton on Sunday, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made five changes to the United XI and he was rewarded with an enterprising first-half display.
But PFA Player of the Year nominee Silva broke the deadlock in the 54th minute and Sane gave the off-colour David de Gea another moment to forget 12 minutes later.
City are a point ahead of Liverpool, knowing victories in their final three games will guarantee back-to-back titles and complete two-thirds of an unprecedented domestic treble.
Jesse Lingard volleyed wide from Paul Pogba’s exquisite 16th-minute pass as an end-to-end contest began to develop – De Gea beating away Silva’s rasping drive before United sprung up the field and Marcus Rashford was denied by an alert Ederson.
City gradually found their poise as half-time approached, with De Gea thwarting Raheem Sterling at the end of a deft move in the United box.
Fernandinho hobbled off injured after making a brilliant tackle on Pogba early in the second half.
Sane’s introduction meant Ilkay Gundogan dropping back to the base of the midfield and Silva slotting into a central role, and the two men combined in their new positions as the Portugal international caught out De Gea at his near post.
Sergio Aguero then hit a rasping shot against the outside of the same upright but Lingard passed up a chance to level when Rashford’s bouncing ball across goal evaded Vincent Kompany and the England midfielder.
Sterling’s charge around Fred to tee up Sane was the nerve-settling moment City required and United’s earlier verve evaporated as a result.
What does it mean? Advantage City in relentless title charge
Chelsea can report upon the potential woes of facing a motivated Burnley, while Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers might fancy flipping the 2013-14 narrative when his side visit the Etihad Stadium on May 6.
City then close against a Brighton and Hove Albion side who could still be scrapping for their Premier League lives. But, however much United might have diminished from the side who retained the title in 2008-09 – no team has done it since – it is hard to escape the feeling Guardiola has negotiated his biggest remaining challenge.
Arsenal’s defeat at Wolves means United’s stumbling top-four bid still has life, despite having lost seven of their last nine games across all competitions.
Ederson poise pivotal to City triumph
At times this season, Ederson has looked like City’s most involved spectator – looking on as goals are rattled at the other end. But twice in the space of a week he has stood up to show razor sharp instincts and flawless handling to set up pivotal wins. The Brazilian did not have to make the eye-catching saves he produced versus Tottenham at the weekend but he was a calming influence for a jittery City before the interval, after which point David Silva began dictating proceedings and the match became a tale of two goalkeepers.
Near-post woes deepen De Gea’s malaise
United’s outstanding performer of the post-Alex Ferguson years, the Spain goalkeeper is undergoing a dire period. After dropping a speculative Lionel Messi shot into his net at Camp Nou last week and shipping four at Goodison Park, there were suspicions he might have done better with City’s opener. That his attempts on Sane’s goal amounted to a howling error was beyond doubt.
Key Opta Facts:
– City have won seven away Premier League games against United at Old Trafford – more than any other team.
– They have also scored 157 goals in all competitions this season – the most by an English top-flight side in a single season in history.
– Guardiola is the first manager to win three consecutive away Premier League matches at Old Trafford against United and only the third to win three away matches there, along with Arsene Wenger and Gerard Houllier.
– United are without a clean sheet in 12 consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time since August 1971.
– In combining for the second goal, Sane (10 goals, 10 assists) and Sterling (17 goals, 10 assists) both reached 10 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League this season; the only other player to do so is Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.
City travel to Burnley on Sunday, while United are back at Old Trafford for another crunch clash against Chelsea.