Manchester United players were back-slapping each other at the end of their Titanic defensive dogfight at the Etihad Stadium and if you needed it then that showed Jose Mourinho ‘s battle plan for this derby.
There will be those among the Reds’ support who will find that tough to stomach.
A recent poll in MEN Sport suggests the new generation realise it has to be the way as United painstakingly rebuild.
The latter will certainly be the ones taking most satisfaction from a backs-to-the-wall effort in East Manchester that was almost completely wrecked by Marouane Fellaini reviving olden day spats when Mike Doyle and Lou Macari forced one yesteryear encounter to be forced off for all parties to calm down.
As United teams go it was the fastest they could have put out in the Manchester derby.
Naming Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial in an attack has been a rarity but makes the Reds look so much more dangerous. It’s Kanchelskis and Giggs all over again.
Martial didn’t really build on his impressive match at Burnley last Sunday in the first half but Rashford had the bit between his teeth.
There were gasps of astonishment every time the Mancunian gave Nicolas Otamendi a start in a straight race.
Martin Demichelis was probably back in his new home in Malaga feeling his fellow Argentine’s pain and wincing at the memory of the teenage striker dumping him on his backside last march at the Etihad and effectively ending his City career.
United though needed to win the midfield battle to give Rashford the platform that would have seen him destroy Otamendi.
Sadly this was one of those occasions when Ander Herrera couldn’t overpower his opponents and Marouane Fellaini’s muscle meant little.
It gave the Blues the edge and United picking up crumbs.
One of those came late in the first half. United had so few opportunities in the first 45 minutes that the chance before the interval for Herrera looked to be crucial.
Rashford’s free kick sailed to the back post and the Basque failed to convert a relatively straight forward header.
Without the centre of midfield operating forcibly and Henrikh Mkhitaryan suffering another derby no-show United’s heroes were all at the back with Michael Carrick a supreme holding midfielder in front of the road block that is Eric Bailly and the intelligent reading of Daley Blind.
They frustrated City’s attack.
The Blues possession count was far superior and United were almost being toyed with in the second 45 minutes as they were penned back making Rashford up front virtually unemployed. It gave Otamendi the long breather he looked like he desperately needed. An oxygen tent might have been more welcome.
United were either forced to give up possession or they voluntarily sacrificed it to put their eggs in the defending basket.
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Hardly club DNA but if it gets you results then all hail Mourinho.
It all got squeaky bum tight as someone once said when the previously anonymous Fellaini managed to ensure he’d get a name check in this encounter.
A Manchester dust up without a booking until the 83rd minute. It all seemed a bit unreal.
The Belgian picked up the first for a foul on Aguero then risked a second bundling over the City striker seconds later.
Then followed his moment of madness. Idiotically head-butting the Argentine in the aftermath all hopes of a late United counter attack went the way of the midfielder.
Most in the stadium thought he had cost United a point when Gabriel Jesus headed home.
If the Belgian had been watching in the dressing room he’d have been the most relieved man in the Reds’ camp as it was ruled out for offside.
The top four battle is still alive.
Source: Stuart Mathieson/ Manchester Evening News