Manchester derby talking points

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford. PHOTO: AFP

1 IS LUKAKU A BIG-GAME PLAYER?

Striker Romelu Lukaku has played against each of Manchester United's top-six rivals this season and has failed to score.

Against City, he had only three touches in the box. While he went close to scoring, a first-time shot from close range striking Ederson in the throat as part of a brilliant double save, his overall performance was hugely disappointing. There may be a mitigating factor - the service early on was woeful. Yet when he did get the ball, too often his touch was clumsy.

To cap a hapless afternoon, his most telling interventions came at the other end, with assists for City. First, he chested down the ball to David Silva when challenged by Nicolas Otamendi and miscued a clearance into Chris Smalling for Otamendi to finish.

2 TRIUMPH OF PHILOSOPHY

The possession-based philosophy that brought Pep Guardiola 14 trophies at Barcelona can work in England.

His City side had 65 per cent of the ball and were far more adventurous than the home team.

United managed only 10 touches in the opposition box to City's 44. United made 325 passes to City's 606. United's passing accuracy was 69 per cent to City's 88.

Guardiola remained bold even late on, eschewing the opportunity to curb his team's attacking intent. He kept Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane high and wide, stretching United, always available for the counter.

3 HERRERA IS NO POGBA

After Paul Pogba returned from a long layoff due to a hamstring injury, Jose Mourinho admitted his team are weakened severely without him. The United manager was right. Without the suspended Frenchman, United lacked any control in midfield. Pogba offers that and more - domination.

Ander Herrera, who played in the midfielder's absence, is just not able to run a contest like the 24-year-old France international and the contest emphasised this deficiency. Herrera was also lucky not to concede a penalty when grappling with Otamendi and was later booked for an obvious dive near the same player in City's area.

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2017, with the headline 'Manchester derby talking points'. Print Edition | Subscribe