United fell to a 2-1 defeat against the noisy neighbours, David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi getting the goals for the Citizens while Marcus Rashford scored for United. All three goals came from defensive errors, with Romelu Lukaku partly culpable for the first City goal, and definitely culpable for the second. Ederson’s world-class double save at the end denied United an equalizer, and allowed City to move 11 points ahead at the top of the table.
The following are some of the major talking points from the game –
Pogba’s absence critical
Paul Pogba’s sending off in the previous game against Arsenal deprived Mourinho of his premier central midfielder for this game; a game where he was probably most needed. United lacked any control in midfield without him; while Ander Herrera is a good footballer, he cannot take a game by the scruff of its neck like Pogba. Against City’s midfield, a physical presence was needed, as well as someone able to dribble past the initial press. Pogba would have provided both, and his absence here may have cost United any chance at the title.
Lukaku influential in the wrong box
Romelu Lukaku had been labelled “untouchable” by Mourinho earlier this season, and the manager kept his praise up even while the Belgian was not scoring, commending his work-rate and physical presence. Two goals in 14 games tells its own story, however. Lukaku was a willing runner throughout the game, but United rarely found him, their long punts from the back being easily repelled by the City backline. City’s opener came after their corner rebounded to David Silva after hitting Lukaku, and while there may not have been much he could have done about that, he was definitely to blame for their second goal. Silva’s free kick into the area should have been dealt easily enough by the Belgian. Instead, he smashed his clearance against Chris Smalling, and the ball fell invitingly for Otamendi to score past David de Gea.
Title race a procession now
This win for City took them 11 points clear of United, while their ludicrous goal difference has the effect of an extra point. Having been unbeaten so far this season, City would need to lose four games without United dropping points for them to lose this advantage; an unlikely occurrence. While there is still a lot of football to be played, this is as close to definitive as a result can get this early in the season; barring a spectacular collapse, City will be champions in May.