In what was a lively and often end-to-end Manchester derby, it was the blue half of the city that claimed a deserved 2-1 victory.
But what did we learn about these Premier League title rivals?
1. Manchester City style
From the moment the game kicked off, Manchester City played exactly how we envision a Pep Guardiola team to play.
They closed United down high up the pitch, dominated possession and run off the ball with such regularity that no defense could have contained. If this is City with one pre-season under Pep Guardiola, it is hard to see Manchester not being blue for quite some time to come.
2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan looked incapable
There was a lot of noise made about the signing of Mkhitaryan by Manchester United fans. The talk was that United had found a truly creative force to fix their attacking woes.
Mkhitaryan had been sensational in the German Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund over the last two seasons. But in this, his first Manchester United start, he looked incapable against an in-form City team.
3. Pep Guardiola’s on-the-fly tactical checkmate
United had the upper hand for the first part of the second half, and like some chess master Pep Guardiola put Fernandinho on and it completely changed the dynamic. Regardless of whether this was a great performance from Fernandinho, kudos has to be given to the City manager in changing the game in one move.
It was definitely a checkmate-inducing substitute.
4. Jose Mourinho starting 11 gamble
Juan Mata has been linking up play well for Manchester United so far this season. This makes it all the more confusing to why Mkhitaryan was picked instead. Clearly, Jose Mourinho tried something and it failed. But disrupting a settled United team to bring in two players, Mkhitaryan and Lingard, who haven’t really played much this season seemed foolhardy against their biggest rivals.
5. Claudio Bravo should have seen red
Even the most hardened Man City fan has to admit Claudio Bravo’s challenge on Wayne Rooney was a red card. If that tackle had been done anywhere else on the pitch, by any other player it would have been red. If the penalty had been given United would have grown in confidence, it wasn’t and it caused a prolonged period where Rooney et al lost momentum.
6. Paul Pogba’s positional play
Paul Pogba is a talent but his positional play in the derby was haphazard. Both he and Rooney seemed to just play wherever they wanted and it didn’t really help, especially after Marouane Fellaini joined the attack. This could have been part of Jose Mourinho’s tactic of throwing caution to the wind. But United needed defensive cover and left everything to Eric Bailly, which meant Man City could continue to counter at will.
7. Kevin De Bruyne is priceless
In what was a man-of-the-match performance, Kevin De Bruyne showed skill, pace, movement and a cool head. In a one-on-one situation with David De Gea, most strikers would panic. This goalkeeper has a knack for coming out on top in such situations.
Against De Bruyne, De Gea looked average, even going the wrong way. If De Bruyne continues like this he’ll be one of the players of the season without a doubt.
8. Eric Bailly is the real deal
An honorable mention should go to Luke Shaw in the United defense but Eric Bailly’s athleticism and strength single-handedly kept the red side of Manchester in this derby.
In what felt like waves of City attacks in the first half, it was only Bailly who really held back the tides. I
n the second half, the United defender was practically left alone to deal with City’s counter attacks. Bailly was United’s best player, and without him, City would have been more than 2-1 up by half time.
9. Man City defy predictions
Everyone thought, this scribe included, that because Sergio Aguero was missing Manchester City would lose.
These predictions clearly over-looked how City was performing and focused on what Mourinho has done in the past — parked the bus to claim famous victories. Who knows why Mourinho played the way he did, but we’ve all learned one thing: Never underestimate City.
10. A different kind of Jose
After the match, Mourinho had a few understandable swipes at the referee. What was refreshing though was how he took the defeat on the chin — blaming his own players, talking about team selection in hindsight.
This wasn’t the rip-roaring managerial war we were expecting off the pitch. It was pleasant and possibly shows that Mourinho respects Manchester United’s image in a way that many fans and parts of their hierarchy were worried about previously.
Manchester City takes the bragging rights amongst fans. They’ll take the Premier League title too if they continue playing the way they are. Questions will be asked of Manchester United and Jose Mourinho, we’ll find out those answers in the coming weeks.