A blistering start to the game from Manchester City set the tone for Pep Guardiola’s men to control the contest, but there were plenty of speed bumps en route to the 2-1 victory.
Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United appeared incapable of coping with City’s expansive and intricate style of play, at least in the first half. Notable by absence was Pep Guardiola’s use of inverted full-backs, with Aleksandr Kolarov and Bacary Sagna operating as orthodox full-backs this time. It didn’t matter, as City battered United with an iron grip on possession that they never looked like letting go of. That was until Claudio Bravo let go of a simple long ball and gave United fans something to cheer about.
The chink in the armour was identified by United, but their repeated attempts to replicate the goal became predictable and Guardiola responded by introducing defensive reinforcements. Mourinho might point at a handball appeal or some other kind of officiating ‘error’, but he knows that the damage was done in the first half. City hanged on to claim all three points, retain their 100% record this season and sit atop the English Premier League. Here we review the performance of every individual player.
Match Ratings – Manchester United
David de Gea 2/5
Given absolutely no chance on the two goals conceded, his defence leaving him completely exposed. Made more saves than his opposition goalkeeper, but a quiet day for the most part.
Antonio Valencia 2.5/5
Did reasonably well in dealing with Nolito’s crafty movement. Provided the spark for United’s goal, nutmegging Aleksandr Kolarov and driving down the touchline before being scythed down by David Silva.
Eric Bailly 2/5
Beaten in the air by Iheanacho before the opening goal, but the error from his defensive partner one second later was more instrumental. Improved as the game went on.
Daily Blind 1.5/5
Didn’t cover himself in glory in the build-up to Kevin De Bruyne’s opener, but also wasn’t offered much protection from Manchester United’s midfield. City broke through the lines with ease and always seemed to have acres of space to play in, particularly during the first half. Unlucky to not claim an assist for a delightful pass just outside his defensive 18-yard area, the shot from Rashford deflected off Ibrahimovic, who was offside.
Luke Shaw 2/5
Nothing noteworthy about his performance. Defended decently but rarely ventured into City’s half.
Marouane Fellaini 2/5
Was a part of a losing battle, especially where the midfield is concerned, as City dominated that area of the pitch. Fellaini was solid in the air, winning more aerial duels than any other player with seven, but he and Pogba were never comfortable while United used the double pivot. He and Pogba both benefitted from Herrera’s introduction.
Paul Pogba 1/5
Looks out of sorts in a more defensive role in one of the two deep midfield positions. City stretched the play and forced United’s full-backs to split away from their centre halves. This increased the pressure on Pogba from a defensive point of view, one we know he is not completely accustomed to.
Wayne Rooney 2/5
Looked to be dangerous on the counter-attack in the early moments of the match, but faded quickly. A second half switch to a central midfield three meant Rooney was played out wide, where he attempted 16 crosses with 3 of them finding a target. Provided a decent ball in for United’s goal, but that never should have dropped out of Bravo’s hands.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan 0.5/5
A surprise inclusion from Mourinho considering the Armenian was struggling for fitness. Besides an early lay-off for a long range Pogba strike, his lack of fitness showed and he truly wasn’t prepared for such an occasion.
Jesse Lingard 0.5/5
No doubt included for his endeavour in a game that Mourinho knew his side would be doing more of the chasing. Made nine out of his 10 passes, put in zero tackles, zero blocks, zero interceptions and zero clearances to be perhaps the most anonymous player on the pitch.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 2/5
A performance that his doubters will reference when discussing his start to life in England, but in truth, he was offered little service from his team mates. Snatched at the chances offered to him, taking 10 shots, most notably just before half-time when a lame first time shot rolled into the path of John Stones after Claudio Bravo was caught in no man’s land. Yet despite all the negatives, he still proved why he is one of the most gifted strikers on the planet who can change the momentum of a tie in an instant.
Marcus Rashford (on for Mkhitaryan) 2.5/5
His introduction improved the mood of the subdued Old Trafford crowd, and some nice early touches helped United try to win some momentum back. His impact faded like a quick rush of adrenaline, but it was more of an impact than any other United player made.
Ander Herrera (on for Lingard) 2/5
The two obvious changes at half-time saw Rashford and Rooney move out wide, with a midfield three of Herrera – Pogba – Fellaini. Herrera didn’t have a massive impact, but his presence helped to stop the rout and let United get a hold on the match.
Anthony Martial (on for Shaw N/A
United threw caution to the wind with Martial’s introduction, but he had too little time to make an impact.
Team Ratings – Manchester City
Claudio Bravo 2/5
Proved Pep Guardiola right regarding his quality in distribution, but made too many errors that would have been giving City fans around the world heart palpitations. His failure to grab a routine aerial ball in the build-up to Ibrahimovic’ strike basically set out United’s game plan for them in the second half. Was also lucky that his rugged lunge on Wayne Rooney following a poor touch in the box didn’t cost his new side.
Bacary Sagna 2.5/5
A solid performance on his return from injury, but faced some problems from Marcus Rashford, particularly when he turned him with ease near the sideline. Was disciplined with his passing, holding a 91% pass success ration from 43 passes.
Nicolas Otamendi 4/5
Looked assured defensively, winning tackles and balls in the air, whilst keeping his passing as simple as possible for the creative players ahead of him. Manchester City looked rock solid with Otamendi marshalling his defence.
John Stones 3.5/5
A good afternoon’s work for the Englishman who will have many media eyes wandering above him and his hefty price tag. A smart decision to cover Bravo’s wandering tracks meant Ibrahimovic’s shot wasn’t allowed to trickle into an empty net, though he did slightly impede his goalkeeper when Ibrahimovic did score. Made far more clearances than any other player on the pitch, with 13.
Aleksandr Kolarov 3/5
A long, low-percentage ball up field provided an opening for a goal that a Pep Guardiola side is not known for scoring. It obviously encouraged him to try it again, he attempted 18 long passes throughout the game, as many as goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. Lost a tooth in a convincing performance.
Zipped around to whatever part of the pitch his services were required, making him the heartbeat and base in which this free-flowing side is built on. Would probably be Man of the Match if not for De Bruyne’s goal-mouth contributions.
David Silva 3/5
Attention must be paid to Silva’s work rate and defensive responsibilities, both of which he displayed admirably here. More known for his creative passes and skilful moves, but it was the grit he showed in this match, laying on four tackles, that shows how the Spaniard is adapting his game to fit into Guardiola’s system.
Gave a masterclass in movement and dribbling, overall showing what an intelligent footballer he is. The sight of him shielding the ball from the towering Marouane Fellaini and turning him for a penalty shout, at least from his perspective, is what all young footballers should be shown when learning to protect the ball with your body.
Kevin De Bruyne 4.5/5
His reactions and decision making were razor sharp, first in nipping ahead of Daily Blind and scoring the opener and then by reacting to a half-hearted clearance from Eric Bailly to fire a shot off the post before Iheanacho picked up the scraps. Could have easily had a second, too, after firing a low shot off the near post and watching the ball agonizingly run along the goal line and out of play. Man of the Match.
Raheem Sterling 1.5/5
One of the few, if not, the only City player to have a really quiet game. Was hooked early in the second half.
Kelechi Iheanacho 3/5
Repaid Guardiola’s faith with a flick-on assist and poacher’s finish. What he lacks in first touch and finesse, he makes up for by having an instinctive sense in front of goal. A confidence-boosting performance that will hopefully encourage his manager to use him more often.
Fernando (on for Iheanacho) 3/5
Came on early in the second half to emphasize Guardiola’s priority. Offered another layer of protection to the City backline, particularly with a brilliant interception from a cross from Ander Herrera on the counter.
Sane (on for Sterling) 2.5/5
Had lots of space to operate and showed some glimpses of his ability in his City debut.
Pablo Zabaleta (on for De Bruyne) N/A
Came on in injury time to help barricade City’s goal.