Without Paul Pogba and a natural centre-back, the 0-0 draw was probably the best-case scenario. More so when you consider they were a man short of the last seven minutes of regulation time, and the 6 minutes of extra time.
It was City who began the game on the front foot and even struck the outside of the upright through a Sergio Aguero half-chance. City enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and United produced the sort of defensive effort that one expects from a Mourinho side in such games. But despite all this, United had the two best opportunities in the first period of the match. Henrikh Mkhitaryan failed to capitalise from a trademark Claudio Bravo error and fired his shot straight into the Chilean, despite the latter being 10 yards from his line. But the chance of the first half belonged to Ander Herrera, who lost his marker and crept up the back post. But he failed to capitalize as he headed wide despite being all alone.
The second half was more of the same as City piled on the pressure but failed to get past a resilient United defense led by the mercurial Eric Bailly. David de Gea was solid every time he was called upon to produce a save. City tried to force shots from long range but they were either off target or straight into De Gea’s palms.
The match was reminiscent of the drab 0-0 draw at Old Trafford last season. It only kicked into life from a 20 second rush of blood into Marouane Fellaini’s head. A silly foul on Aguero in City’s half saw him receive the first yellow card of the match. Yes, that’s how boring the match was. A Manchester Derby’s first yellow in the 83rd minute. Seconds later, Aguero went down rather easily and had something to say to the Big Belgian. The two squared up and Fellaini did what Fellaini does. He knocked his head down and caught the Argentine’s forehead right in front of the ref. I personally did not think it was enough to send Aguero down to the floor. He did what every striker should do – make the most out of an opportunity. Martin Atkinson did not even bother to give Fellaini a second booking and flashed the straight red.
The highlight of the second period up until then was Claudio Bravo needing a stretcher for a calf strain.
Following the red card, both sides made a change each, as Mourinho withdrew Mkhitaryan for Timothy Fosu-Mensah, and Pep Guardiola played his trump card – Gabriel Jesus for Raheem Sterling. With the numerical advantage, City pressed and even put the ball in the back of the net courtesy Jesus but, it was rightly chalked off for offside. United somehow managed to hold on.
In hindsight, United did park the bus. But it was a result that puts our destiny in our own hands. Two points behind Liverpool in third with a game in hand. David De Gea kept his 14th clean sheet of the season, the same as Hugo Loris at the top of this chart.
United now can move ahead of Liverpool into the Champions League places with a win at home against Swansea on Sunday. Liverpool only play on Monday night against Watford.