Old Trafford left flat after United and City play out spiritless draw
Reeling from the tremendous disappointment of United’s Champions League failure, it seems that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer opted to steady the ship rather than double down in the pursuit of local bragging rights.
There had been hotly contested debates between fans over which of their midfield talismans would outshine the other prior to kick-off, though upon release of the team-sheet more attention fell to Paul Pogba than Bruno Fernandes or Kevin De Bruyne.
While the media continue to feast on the speculation surrounding his future following the comments of Pogba’s ‘super agent’ Mino Raiola, it seems Solskjaer still sees enough quality in the World Cup winner to offer him a place in this squad.
The United manager sent his team out with a clear game plan to exercise caution in the early stages after the chaotic first halves of recent weeks. Despite this, the Reds still found themselves the better side as Pep Guardiola’s side continued to stumble in search of their killer edge.
Their first chance fell to Scott McTominay, as Victor Lindelöf’s flick on from a corner just managed to evade the towering midfielder at the back post. Lindelöf was in strong form as a provider, and soon picked out Fernandes with a fine pass only for the Portuguese to fluff his lines.
As the match failed to shed its cagey nature, chances came at a premium for both sides and as such, Raheem Sterling will be remiss that he could not do better after weaving through the United penalty box only to blast a shot at Harry Maguire.
The best chance of the half however undoubtedly fell to Riyad Mahrez after 35 minutes, who was found by De Bruyne with enough space to drive towards the United goal. David De Gea was equal to the Algerian’s run and came out early, nullifying the effort before De Bruyne snatched at the rebound to blaze it over the bar.
With the whistle drawing the first 45 minutes to a close, few will have found themselves on the edge of their seat. United were cautious in attack, but importantly the defence had the measure of the game as they came up against a City attack reluctant to commit. Having so often found themselves with a mountain to climb at half-time, this represented United’s greatest achievement of the first half.
Half-time: Manchester United 0 – 0 Manchester City
After a half of few big chances, the second half seemed to be off to a very different start when after only four minutes, Marcus Rashford found himself open in the box only to have his boot punted by Kyle Walker and a penalty awarded. Yet VAR was soon to expose Rashford’s offside position, and rather than chalking up the customary Fernandes goal, the scoreboard remained unmarked.
United’s grievances with Rashford’s positioning did not finish there, as Greenwood steamed into the City box and released a tame shot that rolled past goal and could well have been poked home by Rashford, had the forward continued his run.
The counting down of the clock only further demonstrated that both sides were happy to play for a draw, and while there were a few long-distance efforts registered, the game inevitably wound down to leave the spoils of the evening shared.
Ultimately the draw will frustrate City fans more so than United fans, being so used to seeing their side blitz defensively shambolic sides like United.
For United, the draw will certainly not make up for all the problems of recent weeks. It will, at least, bring calm after the cataclysm in Leipzig, and when all is said and done United have a point from what was ostensibly a difficult game.
Attention now turns to the fixture against an entirely out-of-sorts Sheffield United, where anything but a resounding win should be serious cause for concern.
Full time: Manchester United 0 – 0 Manchester City
Man of the Match: Victor Lindelöf