United 1 - 2 City
Valencia Bailly Blind Shaw(Martial)
Mhiki(Herrera) Rooney Lingard(Rashford)
It's been a while since I've seen United totally outplayed. The level at which we were dominated by the opposition during the first half almost reminded me of the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals against Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. We were all over the place during the first 40 minutes and City totally deserved going 2 goals up. Funnily enough, we could have (probably should have) equalled the score by the half-time whistle.
When I looked at the starting line-up, I thought we had the better team but some players really let us down today. Mhiki and Lingard were awful. Rashford did more than them combined after the first minute of replacing Jesse. Both Blind and Bailly were exposed during the first half. They improved thereafter. Pogba was very poor. He held the ball at his feet too long when he had options and lost a lot of 50-50 challenges. He was poor throughout the whole game, not just the first half. Rooney had a poor first half but was better during the second. Ibra scored a decent goal after a howler by City's keeper but should have scored the second 2 minutes later when Lingard found him and the Swede concluded weakly. He also misfired a couple of volleys during the second half. City's defence looked hesitant during the final 5 minutes before half-time and we looked like scoring every time we attacked. Perhaps the half time whistle came too early for us. City must've been pleased to hear it.
The positive out of this game is that Mourinho reacted and made changes that did change the game. We were better during the second half but City still had the better chances as they found a lot of space as our players pushed forward to score the leveller. But we did look like we could score. Fernandinho's inclusion midway through the second half says a lot. Pep felt that we were on top and he had to defend the lead so he brought on a defensive minded midfielder. We were very unlucky not to get a penalty when Bravo lunged studs-up into Rooney. It should have probably been a red card for City's keeper. Had that been anywhere else on the pitch, it would have been red. We were a tad lucky at the other end though as the brilliant De Bruyne struck the post. What a player he is.
It's good that we produced a reaction and this is all because we've finally got a bench that provides options. In the seasons gone by, we've often been playing awfully but our manager looked clueless to what changes he could do. Mourinho had Rashford, Herrera and Martial on the bench. Not bad that.
I've watched Mourinho's post match interview and the journalist asked him whether he should be blamed for choosing the wrong players to start. As I said, I was quite pleased with the starting XI. Who would've thought Mhiki was going to be that poor?! However, I was very surprised to see Lingard start. I agreed with dropping both Mata and Martial because they haven't been setting the world alight so far this season but I would have gone for Rashford instead of Lingard. Marcus is absolutely buzzing at the moment with a last minute winner vs. Hull and a hat-trick against Denmark's U-21. I think it's time Mourinho gives Rashford a chance from the start. He looked very lively when he came on.
I've highlighted how bad we were during the first half (let's say 40 minutes), but you have to give City some credit. They were excellent despite missing Aguero. If they keep playing like they did during the first 40 minutes, then I genuinely can't see who they'll drop points against. Hopefully Bravo will keep playing like he did today.
Meanwhile, there's work to be done from our side. Moutinho will have to work hard to boost Lingard and Mhiki's confidence after today's horror shows. Pogba must make sure he doesn't go missing in these big games. He was bought to make a difference in these kind of games. Other players need to be stand up and be counted. Only Shaw, Herrera and Rashford produced performances that I'm pleased with. But I'm not too disheartened. I've seen enough in the second half to make me feel confident about what lies in the future. Till then, bragging rights belong to City but we'll come back stronger.
Come on United!