Manchester United recorded a hard-fought but surprising 3-2 win at Manchester City’s Etihad stadium to reduce the Citizens’ lead at the top to 13 points and delay the Qatar-backed club’s potential title celebrations.
Looking to claim the title using their more illustrious neighbour as victim, City suffered their first loss at home since December 2016 in a game of two halves where the Citizens dominated the first while the Red Devils took the second half.
Guardiola sent out a strong side but benched Kevin De Bruyne with an eye on overcoming a 3-0 deficit in the Champions League next Tuesday. Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling manned the wings, while the trio of Gundogan, David Silva and Bernardo Silva were given the freedom to roam in midfield. Jose Mourinho, in response, fielded a rather attacking XI, Pogba pushed up to support Jesse Lingard and Alexis Sanchez, while Ander Herrera partnered Matic at the base of midfield to add steel.
City dominated from the start and had a penalty shout waved away by referee Martin Atkinson, David Silva shot high and wide, while Bernardo Silva’s poked shot was saved by the leg of David De Gea as the crowd bayed for blood. A relentless City got their reward from a fortuitous corner kick. Captain Vincent Kompany, who scored in the Carabao Cup final, lost his marker Chris Smalling and powered a bullet header past De Gea from Sane’s outswinger to hand the proverbial ‘noisy neighbours’ a 1-0 lead.
It was 2-0 five minutes later as De Gea’s poor goal kick was decisively punished. The speedy duo of Sane and Sterling combined to find Gundogan, and the Germany international midfielder swiveled past Matic before burying low to the far corner.
Sterling should have scored two more goals in the next six minutes but he contrived to miss when free in the area, while Gundogan also missed a free header as Pep’s boys tore a disjointed Red Devils apart. Retired Man United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, watched on dumbfounded as a feeble United- who had no shot on target at half time- was on display to the delight of the ecstatic City fans.
Jose released the shackles off his men and they came out for the second half with more purpos, halving the deficit on 53 minutes. Herrera’s chest down from Sanchez’s cross freed Pogba in box for the former Juventus man to bundle past Ederson. It was all square with United and Pogba’s second goal in 98 seconds. The 25-year old Frenchman ghosted into City’s box to nod in Sanchez’s clipped cross and silence the home crowd.
Bizarrely, a revitalized Man United took the lead on 68 minutes through the hitherto poor Smalling. Alexis Sanchez swung in a free kick he won from Danilo’s mistake and center back Smalling broke free of Otamendi to convert, completing an unlikely turnaround.
Gabriel Jesus, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero were all brought on in a charged atmosphere that saw City denied another penalty. Aguero, Fernandinho and Pogba all got booked within minutes with tackles flying all over the pitch.
De Gea redeemed himself with two world class saves in the dying minutes to the despair of City fans as Manchester United held on for an unlikely win to halt Pep Guardiola and his boys’ title celebrations for another week with their first loss at home in sixteen months.
Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Bournemouth 2-2 Crystal Palace
Brighton 1-1 Huddersfield Town
Leicester City 1-2 Newcastle United
Stoke City 1-2 Tottenham
Watford 1-2 Burnley
West Brom 1-1 Swansea City
Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United