Manchester United put in a solid performance to secure a 2-0 victory against rival and neighbours Manchester City that ended their unbeaten 21-game winning run. United start with intent and was rewarded with a penalty within the first minute of the game, which was duly converted by Bruno Fernandes. After the game had settled down, we had to withstand City’s dominance on the ball as they looked to equalise. Our defence coped well despite us giving the ball away too easily in the first half.
In the second half, United had an early scare when Rodri’s effort on goal hit the bar. But then we got on the attack and Luke Shaw cooly slotted home in the bottom left corner with the second goal. Anthony Martial could have made it three for us but his effort was saved by Ederson. City pushed even more but United frustrated them in equal measure. We saw it through to the end with the win and Manchester is Red again.
Here is a look at five things we learned from the game.
1. The perfect start
The start from United surprised many including us fans. Just before kick-off, we all thought we knew how the pattern of play would go. City would be having lots of possession with United having to run and defend, whilst counter-attacking where possible. The first ten minutes saw Solskjær’s side rip up that rule book. We attacked the City defence with intent, as we got in behind them and clearly had an energy that had been severely lacking against Palace in midweek.
Martial won the penalty after being fouled by Gabriel Jesus. Bruno Fernandes converted from the spot despite Ederson getting a hand to the ball. United had grabbed the initiative early, which surprised the City players. Even after going 1-0 up, we remain composed and held a high defensive line as we looked to stop the opposition from getting any momentum. The game did settle down as City got more on the ball and had a number of opportunities, with Dean Henderson pulling off a good save from Ilkay Gündogan.
2. Luke Shaw must be the best left-back in England
Out of all players who had a good performance in the dreary 0-0 draw against Crystal Palace in midweek was Luke Shaw. He continued his rich vein of form again against City. Since the arrival of Alex Telles, the left-back has stepped up with the competition clearly proving a motivation for him. He is now the number one in this position and quite possibly the first name on the team sheet along with Bruno Fernandes.
Shaw was the one who started the attacking move for the second goal, after picking up an accurate throw out from Dean Henderson. He drove forward into the opposition box before he exchanged passes with Marcus Rashford. Shaw then cooly controlled the ball before shifting to one side before slotting the ball home in the corner of the City goal.
It just shows how far he has come this season. After Bruno Fernandes, he has been our next best player in the team and should duly receive all the praise he is getting now. Shaw’s United career at the beginning was up and down with him suffering the leg break, then followed by criticism from then manager Jose Mourinho. Telles’s arrival has seen Shaw improved in every area of his game from one on one defending to his attacking runs.
With his current rich vein of form, England’s Gareth Southgate surely must be looking to include him in the squad for the Euros in the summer. He is demonstrating all the right qualities and he is worthy of being the first choice left-back.
3. Dean Henderson lauded by the fans
Dean Henderson had another chance to impress to become the number one goalkeeper following David De Gea’s return to Spain after the birth of his first child. Whilst he made a number of good saves during the game, what stood out the most was his long throw to Luke Shaw that got United on the attack. Shaw brought the ball down, got passed Cancelo before driving the ball into the opposition area. The key was that before Henderson took the throw out, he had waited for his teammates to get in front of him before launching the ball.
He was commanding throughout and was inspiring confidence in the players. He was claiming crosses with ease, whether this had been from open play or a set-piece. Henderson also gathered up those loose balls that came into the six-yard box. It is now 9 clean sheets in 15 appearances this season. If he carries on this good form, De Gea is going to find it hard to reclaim his place once he comes back from Spain.
4. Martial’s performance gives us faith
Martial’s place in the starting eleven was not a certainty as he had to pass a late fitness test. He had an excellent performance though his finishing was just lacking today. His hold-up play throughout the game helped United in getting forward whilst relieving the pressure on our defence. He was crucial in earning us the early penalty, which we converted. Martial also impressed with pressing which at times during other games this season, he did not seem to want to do.
There had been some suggestions that United might move him on in the summer. If we were not to sell him, then he would not be an automatic starter for us anymore. Martial put in the perfect response and that is why Gary Neville named him his Man of the Match on Sky Sports. We just want to see this type of performance from him week in week out. You can’t be a brilliant centre forward if you are only producing now and again.
5. If only United had not dropped points in their other fixtures
With United winning against City, we are still 11 points behind them. The gap is still too much to catch up on our rivals. It just begs the question, what if United hadn’t messed up in their most league fixtures. We had dropped points against Crystal Palace, Chelsea, West Brom, Everton, Arsenal, and Sheffield United. If we had converted some of those draws into wins, we might have still been in the title race. For us to be challengers, we need more consistent and victories.