Manchester City failed to win the title at the Etihad against their crosstown rivals but the highly anticipated Manchester Derby did not fail to disappoint. Some could say Man United showed glimpses of the glory days under Sir Alex Ferguson as they clawed their way back from 2-0 down portraying great tenacity and drive.
For much of this season, the Manchester United players have lacked passion and creativity due to Mourinho’s tactics, which made this comeback especially meaningful for United fans.
After two first half goals from Vincent Kompany and İlkay Gündoğan, it looked as if City were in the driver’s seat and headed towards a much-deserved Premier League title. But United were not going to be embarrassed. Like a bolt of lightning, Man City never saw it coming.
With the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal approaching against Liverpool, Pep fielded a starting 11 without four key players: Sergio Agüero, Kevin De Bruyne, Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus. It’s fair to say Man City fans were hoping for the usual dominant lineup that they had gone out with for the majority of the season but up until the second half, this lineup was working brilliantly.
United lined up in a 4-3-3 with their usual starting 11 including Paul Pogba, who has been receiving criticism as of late due to his lackluster performance against Sevilla. There is no question about his technical ability when on the ball but the criticism stems from his poor defensive abilities.
Sky Sports pundit Graeme Souness stated that “[Pogba] doesn’t understand the role when not in possession.” But Pogba is given a role under Mourinho that he struggles with as a defensive midfielder. He thrives as the creative spark in the team, which he beautifully displayed in the second half of the derby.
How did Man City dominate the first half?
They were given too much time on the ball and were allowed to play their game.
David Silva was able to dictate the play, as he so often does.
Playing as the #9, Sterling was given a free roam role and was constantly changing positions with Bernardo Silva and Gündoğan, which opened up channels. One would drop deep, one would peel out wide and one would stay central.
The Man United defenders were confused. Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly in particular, were pulled out of position multiple times, which left pockets of space in behind.
So how exactly did Manchester United come back from two goals down against the league’s best team to snatch a derby victory?
They came out attacking and immediately put City on the back foot.
Mourinho finally disregarded his defensive tactics and allowed his players to push forward.
They switched to a 4-2-3-1, pushing Pogba into the #10 role while Alexis and Lingard tucked in a bit more to allow overlapping runs from the outside backs.
The front four of Lukaku, Alexis, Pogba and Lingard were constantly switching positions to create the same confusion for the Man City defense that United felt in the first half.
The way United came out in the second half showed their attacking capabilities and just how dangerous they can be. As soon as Pogba was given the nod to attack he scored two goals in two minutes to get United back into the game. It is extremely disappointing that Mourinho handcuffs his players by focusing so much on defense.
United are absolutely filled with attacking talent and need to be given the same freedom they had in the second half of the derby in every single match. Hopefully Mourinho sees this more clearly and starts to play more creative football but his stubbornness may prevent that from ever happening.
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