By Owen Murray
The second of two massive derbies in England this weekend saw Manchester City beat their rivals Manchester United by a staggering scoreline of 6-3, featuring dual hat tricks from Erling Haaland and Phil Foden, City’s first in the derby for over 50 years. A second consecutive goal from derby debutant Antony and two from Anthony Martial brought the opposition within three, but the contest was long gone.
City passed the eye test with flying colours and showed no signs of a hangover from the international break, and while United found themselves on the wrong end of a big score, it was more due to the unstoppable quality that their rivals brought on the day than a complete capitulation. That said, United often looked disconnected and unable to maintain possession to wrest back control of the match.
Manchester City began the day without stalwart Rúben Dias and English international John Stones, both regular members of the starting cohort thus far. Losing Kyle Walker on 41 minutes might’ve worried any other manager, but new signings Sergio Gómez and Manuel Akanji had no issues slotting in. The Swiss played with all the intelligence and quality that we’ve come to expect from City’s defenders, looking calm as United’s forwards pressed early on in an attempt to ruffle the home side.
João Cancelo once again showed his value, starting the match on the left of the back four and sliding to the right in the wake of Kyle Walker’s injury. While he finished without a goal contribution, his part in the control City held over the match cannot be sniffed at. On the other side of defence, Gómez, acquired this season from Anderlecht, stepped in and performed admirably with an assist for Haaland’s third.
Too Much In Attack
The three on-paper star men: Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Erling Haaland, were untouchable. Foden and Haaland’s twin hat tricks benefited from De Bruyne’s two assists, the second of which added another highlight to the Belgian’s impressive display of passing. No viewer could ignore the firepower up front, and they’ll be spoken about by the media, but the goalscorers did cover up a vital performance from the oft-maligned Jack Grealish.
Especially in the initial fifteen minutes, his ability to link with Bernardo Silva on City’s left opened spaces behind Diogo Dalot and let his teammates get at United’s central defensive pair of Raphaël Varane and Lisandro Martínez. Especially after drawing an early yellow card off Dalot, he did well to exploit what had obviously been identified as a weakness by Guardiola and his team. The performance only adds to the case for Grealish as a truly important facet of the City rotation and helps to prove that he can benefit a side without needing the keys to the team.
By the statistics, City created 3.06 xG from 23 shots, often finding the cutback from an intricate bit of play. The pick of the finishes from the blue side of the city was likely Haaland and City’s third, a sliding poked shot into the far post. The vast majority of the six, however, were the result of patience and movement, both hallmarks of City at their best.
On Any Other Day…
While the result remains a disappointing one for Erik ten Hag and his men, they can take a small solace from the three goals they snatched back to win the second half. Antony secured his second in as many league matches for the club with a wonderful curled effort from distance and Anthony Martial came off the bench to net his first two of the season.
While it didn’t garner the side anything but a measure of pride, it allows supporters to retain their memories of their form prior to the international break and extends the lifetime of Martial as an option for the Red Devils. It’s obvious that United don’t yet have the long-term striker they need, as evidenced by Ten Hag’s reluctance to utilise Cristiano Ronaldo off the bench, but their wide forwards have provided a sliver of hope to the club and their supporters.
The pain of losing to their rivals, mentioned by Christian Eriksen in his elegant post-match interview, will stick with them. The side will still draw confidence from their September results against Arsenal and Liverpool, but the defeat serves as a reality check. This test won’t be the last of October, as they still have Tottenham, Newcastle, and Chelsea to go amongst others before the month is out.
Statistics from Opta
Image “The Blue Moon hypothesis at Manchester City Football Club” by dullhunk is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.