Since Manchester City was acquired by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008, the English football club underwent significant transformations under the ownership of Sheikh Mansour. The sudden influx of money facilitated the purchase of top-rated players, who guided the club to three Premier League trophies in the current decade. To fans of the club, however, no glory could surpass that of turning Manchester blue – or in other words – emerging victorious over their rivals Manchester United. The much coveted Manchester derby has seen a shift in tide during this decade, amplified by the departure of United’s long-serving manager Sir Alex Fergusson in 2013. In the recent 2018-19 season, Manchester City once again embarked in a scintillating display of football that saw them win 3-1 over their fiercest rivals.
The rundown to the derby was dominated by City’s superlative and United’s lackluster performance in the season. The recent victory over Juventus in the Champions League gave United fans a glimmer of hope, despite the fact that City had been ruthless against opponents in the Etihad Stadium. The announcement of the starting lineup didn’t exactly raise that hope – as midfield maestro Paul Pogba failed a late fitness test and manager Jose Mourinho decided to bench Juan Mata, Romelu Lukaku, and summer-signing Alexis Sanchez. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola fielded just one change, as Riyad Mahrez took the place of in-form Leroy Sane.
Manchester City started the game in blistering pace and began utilizing unmarked spaces effectively, demonstrating similar playing style that was the cornerstone of their recent success. In the 12th minute, a move started by David Silva resulted in a cross that curved in front of United’s goalkeeper David De Gea. The ball was collected by Bernardo Silva, who pinged it back across goal, where Silva crashed the ball in the back of the net for his seventh goal of the season.
As Etihad Stadium erupted, United was able to subdue City’s attacks for the remainder of the first half. However, it only took three minutes in the second half for United’s defense to falter once more, as Sergio Aguero managed a quick one-two pass with Mahrez before slamming the ball on the top of the net. United was able to pull a goal back in the 58th minute, as Antony Martial converted a penalty after City goalkeeper Ederson brought down substitute Lukaku in the penalty box. The final third of the game was reminiscence of a typical Manchester Derby, with both teams coming close to scoring. However, substitute Ilkay Gündogan managed to finish off a mesmerizing 44-pass sequence in the 86th minute that gave City a 3-1 victory, rendering Manchester blue.
As a clearly outplayed United fell 12 points behind the Premier League leaders, Mourinho reached deep into his book of excuses to justify the result. At first, he pointed out that United’s recent games against Bournemouth and Juventus had drained his players, as City players were well rested after relatively easy games in the previous week. When the fact that City had 66% possession and 16 shots to United’s 5, Mourinho said, “The way people who don’t understand football analyze it with stats. I don’t go for stats. I go for what I felt in the game and it was there until minute 80-something. I consider the performance of my team one with mistakes. It is different from a bad performance.”
On the other hand, an ever-humble Guardiola was not entirely satisfied with the performance of his team. “First half not so good,” he said. “We played like: ‘I don’t want to lose the ball’ but not the intention to attack or to do something. I feel when I watch my players, a team that feels a little bit the pressure. They want to do well in the derby. That’s normal.