Premier League English

The latest instalment of the Manchester derby

This was to be their 182nd derby match against one of their most bitter arch-rivals comprising a team and a world-beating manager that had been in imperious form the previous two seasons. A truly formidable team optimistically buoyed and boosted by a creditable run of deserving victories, not least among which was the recent away win at Real Madrid besides clinching yet another glittering trophy in the shape of the Carabao Cup. And the final outcome was eagerly anticipated on both sides.

The euphoria at Old Trafford was stratospheric when Alex Scott McTominay’s mindblowing 40-yarder was slammed into the Manchester City net, setting off absolute pandemonium in the Theatre of Dreams amidst a setting of lines of Mancunian rain descending in symmetry concordant harmony. It was a perfect moment of Manchester United epiphany in 2020.

Ever incorrigible, Pep Guardiola did not fail to surprise as usual and previewed his Manchester City line up for this match against Manchester United with the inclusion of Joao Cancelo at right back and Phil Foden, with the latter given the chance to augment his reputation. The absence of midfield dynamo and star, Kevin de Bruyne, was glaringly obvious. It also looked a bit odd, not to mention risky, that Kyle Walker was not a starter in this fixture as United are and expected to play aggressively and well on the counter attack. The only possible cause for concern would have been the apparent lack of pace across the defence.

The match kicked off with a brisk pace, surprisingly with no real tactical surprises in how either side lined up. City’s brand of possession football was evidenly in control right from the start. However it wasn’t long before a vulnerability began to creep into City when they lost possession of the ball. And ultimately lost the match to their own great dismay.

Granted it was just another derby win. Yet it was one that was birthed out of years of frustration and brings with it the hopeful return of a familiar sense of character and the long-awaited reconnection between Old Trafford and their beloved team. This most certainly is a victory worth celebrating for United especially with the final enterprising contribution from an Academy graduate in the final throes of a nerve-jangling Manchester derby. The buzz was absolutely deafening and the ensuing mayhem ecstatically exhilarating.

Defiant Manchester City fans would no doubt point to the fact that United are still at best lagging fifth in the table and 12 points behind the six-time champions. Yet beating City for the third time this season shows that Solskjaer and his men are indeed doing whatever they can to put up a good fight to show their mettle. After all, Solskjaer and Klopp are now only the managers to emerge with wins over defeat Pep Guardiola’s team thrice in a single season. And everyone should know as well that winning three derbies in a single season is something worth shouting about.

The team that played did not have superstar names but what were made ineradicably manifest were the true fighting spirit, endeavour, intent and creative imagination they possessed and valiantly displayed. And that’s what true Manchester United fans really hope to expect from their team.

Although the loss would in reality not matter much to City, they are now at the uncomfortable point where they are being frustrated by unacceptable errors on the pitch. There was no excellence from any individual player in the match let alone from the team as a whole. This is an omen that does not bode well for the games which lie ahead.

Manchester United celebrated at the end like they had won a trophy although they han’t. Yet it is indisputable that they deserved to win this game. Hopefully this precious derby win would help to spur them on to greater things.