Two goals in the space of four second-half minutes swung a tense derby Manchester United’s way on Saturday lunchtime as the Red Devils crept one point behind Manchester City with a 2-1 victory.
Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford struck in the final 12 minutes, overturning Jack Grealish’s 60th-minute opener as Erik ten Hag’s side recorded a ninth consecutive victory across all competitions, consigning City to a second straight defeat as the Red Devils joined their city rivals in the Premier League top three.
As is often the case in a derby, particularly one with repercussions towards the top of the table, the opening half-hour was a cagey affair. Although, neither team could be accused of over-caution. City invariably dominated possession but had the cogs of their buildup clogged by United’s front-foot approach.
At each turnover, United rapidly funnelled the ball into the feet of Marcus Rashford. The royally in-form forward repeatedly hared into the acres of space City’s advanced backline afforded the hosts. Rashford rounded Ederson entirely in the 34th minute but had his effort cleared off the line by Manuel Akanji. Eye-to-eye with the Brazilian keeper moments later, Rashford couldn’t squeeze the ball past Ederson.
By alternating the players that offered to receive the ball from the centre-backs, City began to tease open the stitching of Manchester United’s well-drilled shape.
Kevin De Bruyne had Fred draped over him like a red scarf for the vast majority of the opening hour but eventually escaped the Brazilian’s clutches. With Riyad Mahrez and Kyle Walker distracting Fred and Tyrell Malacia, De Bruyne scurried unchecked into United’s box. Jack Grealish, three minutes after his substitution, nodded in De Bruyne’s cross, giving City the lead with their first shot on target in more than two hours of football.
United had offered precious little threat in the second half before Bruno Fernandes knocked City out of their swagger in the 79th minute. City’s backline switched off as Rashford moved towards Casemiro’s pass from an offside position. However, the canny forward didn’t touch the ball, letting it roll through for Fernandes to sweep United level. Despite the initial flutter of the assistant’s flag, VAR deemed that Rashford hadn’t interfered, awarding the equaliser.
Rashford emphatically was interfering in all the best ways possible for United four minutes later. United caught City scattered in transition, Alejandro Garnacho jinked away from Nathan Ake – the left centre-back drawn all the way over to the right – and picked out Rashford unmarked inside the six-yard box to tuck in a ninth consecutive goal at Old Trafford.
GK: David de Gea – 6/10 – Could hardly be blamed for the close-range concession against Grealish.
RB: Aaron Wan-Bissaka – 6/10 – Muzzled Phil Foden’s threat down the flank so well that the City winger was hooked. Had less success against Grealish.
CB: Raphael Varane – 7/10 – Took few risks when City were able to eke their way into United’s box.
CB: Luke Shaw – 8/10 – Up against the towering and intimidating figure of Erling Haaland in an unnatural position, Shaw did remarkably well to limit the Premier League top scorer’s impact.
LB: Tyrell Malacia – 7/10 – Eagerly and aggressively snapping at Riyad Mahrez’s heels.
CM: Casemiro – 8/10 – On hand to lend an extra broom when sweeping up City’s attacks. The Brazilian couldn’t stop De Bruyne from teeing up the opening goal but crucially toed the ball away from Haaland.
CM: Fred – 7/10 – A rare lapse in concentration was ruthlessly punished after spending so much of the match as close and uncomfortable as a hair shirt.
AM: Christian Eriksen – 6/10 – Shadowed Rodri off the ball but was quick to shuttle it forward in transition.
RW: Bruno Fernandes – 8/10 – Alongside his crisply taken equaliser, Fernandes was the chief delivery source for United’s counter-attacks, sling-shotting the ball whenever he spotted a forward dart.
ST: Anthony Martial – 3/10 – Amid the fury of a derby, Martial’s nonchalant approach grates even more than usual. Even the Old Trafford crowd called for a bit more urgency at times before he was replaced at half-time.
LW: Marcus Rashford – 8/10 – Poised on the shoulder of the deepest sky blue shirt, desperate to burst behind City’s backline. Passed up a raft of chances before finally tucking in.
Antony – 5/10 – Lining up through the middle, Antony struggled to progress beyond a nuisance.
Alejandro Garnacho – 7/10 – Wriggled away from Ake to set up Rashford.
Harry Maguire – N/A
Lisandro Martinez – N/A
Scott McTominay – N/A
Erik ten Hag – 7/10 – Set his team up to strike on the counter. After missing a number of chances through this route in the first half, his confident side found a way through in the second.
GK: Ederson – 4/10 – Recklessly charged off his line but wasn’t deterred by that error, expertly rushing out to smother Rashford three minutes later.
RB: Kyle Walker – 7/10 – As swift as ever on the cover but forced to retreat plenty of times. Increasingly ventured forward after the interval.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 5/10 – United specifically targeted the space behind Akanji who had some shaky moments but was hardly a liability for the reigning champions.
CB: Nathan Ake – 7/10 – Made little fuss with what defensive work he had to do.
LB: Joao Cancelo – 5/10 – Grew into the game as he was given more licence to drift laterally as well as vertically.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne – 8/10 – When De Bruyne was given a breath of space, he invariably showed why Ten Hag devised a specific plan for him.
CM: Rodri – 8/10 – So utterly fundamental to City’s game on and off the ball, metronomically dictating play from the base of midfield.
CM: Bernardo Silva – 6/10 – Dropping deeper than Rodri at times to collect the ball off his centre-backs while also buzzing forward to lead the first line of City’s press.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 5/10 – Came off second-best more often than not in his personal duels with Malacia, needed the help of his teammates to bypass the fullback.
ST: Erling Haaland – 4/10 – Feeding on scraps, Haaland was just as uninvolved as normal but without his customary goal.
LW: Phil Foden – 3/10 – Skirted anonymously around the fringes of the contest.
Jack Grealish – 7/10 – For the second Premier League game in a row, Grealish came off the bench to change the game.
Pep Guardiola – 5/10 – City never seemed to go for the second goal while they were in the ascendency, instead resting in possession but without the solid base of yesteryear to lean upon.