United exit Carabao Cup as they slump to a disheartening derby defeat
Manchester United’s Premier League fortunes have steadily risen over the past months, but they were to receive a harsh reality check against their ‘noisy neighbours’ in the Carabao Cup semi-final.
The previous meeting between these two sides had come at a time when both teams where struggling to find their feet this season, and with both preferring to play for a bore draw rather than risk losing momentum there was precious little to take away from the meetings.
As both the red and blue of Manchester have now hit form, there was to be no such hesitation on this occasion.
With both managers giving the go-ahead to what is likely their strongest available lineup, a fiery tempo was set in place from the outset.
Efforts flew toward both goals at a rate of knots, and the ball crashed into the net at opposite ends twice in only five first-half minutes. First it was John Stones’ accidental goal-bound clearance on the rebound from a Marcus Rashford shot, before Ilkay Gundogan steered in from a supple Phil Foden cross.
In both cases the linesman correctly called for offside, and VAR confirmed the decisions.
The back-and-forth hastened. Zack Steffen tipped over a Bruno Fernandes curler, and his dynamic counterpart Kevin De Bruyne returned the favour by launching a shot against the post.
City began to over-awe United with their quality and piled chances forward, once again finding the net through Foden only to see the inevitable offside flag raised.
In spite of the many chances, the first half was to remain goalless. City had not yet managed to find the lead, but there was a visible difference in quality between the two sides that caused concern as we settled down for a cagey second half.
Half-time: Manchester United 0 – 0 Manchester City
For United, it seemed that they had finally encountered a defence that could stand firm against their swift attempts at attack, and this realisation seemed to echo throughout the team’s morale.
And so it was that City were the first to strike, only five minutes after the restart. The visitors in blue had won a free kick in a wide yet threatening area, and Foden’s ball was simply too good not to be met at the far post by Stones.
So often for United conceding has only strengthened their resolve, but no matter how hard they pushed, City would not give.
Riyad Mahrez was next in his attempt to deliver his side a second, and his launched effort seemed destined for the net but for a tremendous save from Henderson.
Ultimately however, City would get their second through yet another unlikely name. United attempted to clear their lines from a corner but could only deliver it to Fernandinho, who lashed a shot home from distance.
With a mountain to climb and only ten minutes to attempt the comeback, United were to fall flat and stumble to the 2-0 defeat that had now seemed inevitable.
Pep Guardiola’s City flew way under the radar at the start of this manic season, but if there was any question of their strength it has now been well and truly quashed.
For United, a fourth semi-final defeat is a bitter pill to swallow. A trophy would represent real improvement in this side and signal success for the future, and the League Cup presented a fantastic opportunity to achieve this.
Now all we can do is hope that this loss does not affect the momentum that is being carried forward in the Premier League.
There are still three trophies to be won, and just one of them would prove a significant achievement.
Full time: Manchester United 0 – 2 Manchester City
Man of the Match: Ruben Dias
the results have now been flanked by two major losses in cup competitions.