Van Gaal’s Manchester United lost Manchester Derby and now City is Blue !
Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0:Aguero made breatless Red Devils
Nor would he have been overly concerned he might end up confronted, between him and Manchester United’s goal, by a midfielder, Michael Carrick, who hadn’t played all season and one Paddy McNair, a 19-year-old rookie making only his fourth first-team appearance in a red shirt.
Aguero scores against the best. He scores against the worst. He scores against the experienced and the untried. He scores against just about everybody.
So it was that despite the defensive turmoil which engulfed United here – including Smalling’s daft and irresponsible dismissal in the first half – and despite Manchester City’s stuttering reluctance to take advantage of it all, this frantic derby was settled in a very familiar way.
Aguero’s left-foot half-volley from 15 yards delivered his 10th league goal of the season and was stamped through with all the qualities of insight, sharpness, movement and unerring confidence which make him one of the game’s most unstoppable strikers.
It was the completion of a move of ruthless incision by City, with Yaya Toure’s neat, sliding pass to the left splitting United’s defenders and setting up Gael Clichy to aim the kind of cross which Aguero accepts as the birthright of his talent.
By then, Marcos Rojo had gone off injured to join the disgraced Smalling on the sidelines and United were playing with a pick’n’mix back four of Antonio Valencia, Carrick, McNair and another teenager, Luke Shaw.
You won’t see that line-up again. Oh hang on, you might, such is the depth of the defensive injury and suspension crisis now faced by Louis van Gaal.
The icy look United’s manager directed at Smalling as he trudged off suggested that some Dutch hairdryer treatment awaited in the dressing room. It was needless when Smalling was cautioned for blocking Manchester City keeper Joe Hart’s path as he attempted a drop-kick in the 31st minute. Seven minutes later, he got a second yellow card for hurtling in clumsily on James Milner.
The enforced change meant Adnan Januzaj had to be withdrawn from the flank and replaced by Carrick, who went into the centre of defence, with United’s attacking options now severely compromised.
Did this help Aguero? Well, it didn’t hinder him. United were being stretched on the rack at that point. The patched-up back line was being torn apart.
But the devastating Argentine gets goals of this ruthless, ravenous fashion on such a regular basis. That’s why it probably didn’t concern him whether the often uncertain Smalling was on the field or not. That’s why it’s a fair guess he might have pulled this off even if Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic had still been at the heart of United’s defence.
He has scored six times in seven of these cross-town collisions now. And that makes his brilliance the single factor above all else which settled things here – and may explain why he appeared so disgruntled when he was summoned off the pitch by the City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, in the 84th minute.
By no means did the goal turn the match into a stroll for City. United had been the more lively side in the opening 20 minutes and although they were reduced to10 men, they finished that way too.
If Wayne Rooney’s extraordinary levels of industry and spirit had been rewarded when he set off on the game’s stand-out solo-run in the 77th minute, United would have been celebrating a point earned by sheer stubbornness.
Amid all this, City worked themselves up over three penalty appeals which were waved away by the referee, Michael Oliver. Happily, Aguero’s goal soothed their frustration and avoided yet another pointless, week-long dissection of whether they should have stood or not.
It was simple to fathom why City protested so vehemently, though. This was a much-needed first win in four games. The league leaders, Chelsea, remain just in sight of Pellegrini’s third-placed team, six points ahead. But there wasn’t much on show yesterday to suggest they are anywhere near their driving, swaggering, powerful best
There ought to be a question mark against Pellegrini’s late withdrawal of James Milner for Samir Nasri too. It facilitated United’s late revival when surely, Milner was the player most robustly equipped to thwart the surge, during which Robin van Persie managed his lone threat of the afternoon.
Meanwhile, United’s goalkeeper, David De Gea, should have been furious over the antics of Smalling.
Just before his team-mate’s first caution, De Gea pulled off three stunning saves to defy Aguero twice and Jesus Navas as City stirred. Wasted efforts in the end, but they helped create the impression that while City are unsure of themselves, this United side is taking small steps towards self-discovery after their worst start since 1985-86.
The journey may continue for a while without the hapless Chris Smalling.
Manchester City vs Manchester United Match Stats
Man City (4-4-2): Hart 6; Zabaleta 6, Kompany 7, Demichelis 6, Kolarov 6; Navas 6, Toure 7, Fernando 6, Milner 7 (Nasri 70, 5); Aguero 7 (Fernandinho 84), Jovetic 6 (Dzeko 71, 6). Booked: Zabaleta, Demichelis, Fernando. NEXT UP: CSKA Moscow (h) Wednesday, CL.
Man Utd (4-1-4-1): De Gea 7; Valencia 6, Smalling 5, Rojo 6 (McNair 56, 6), Shaw 6; Blind 6; Januzaj 6 (Carrick 43, 6), Fellaini 6, Rooney 7, Di Maria 6; Van Persie 6 (Wilson 82). Booked: Smalling, Blind. Sent off: Smalling. NEXT UP: Crystal Palace (h) Saturday PL.
Referee: Michael Oliver (Northumberland).
Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0 Match Video
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