The Numbers Game: Pogba bosses second half and Sanchez sparkles

GK: David de Gea (8) – Culpable for City’s second goal, as his poor clearance set off the move. Made up for it with a stunning save in the second half; few other goalkeepers could have reacted that quickly to divert Aguero’s header

RB: Antonio Valencia (7) – Looked utterly at sea in the first half, and it was his hacked, mis-kicked clearance that conceded the corner from which City took the lead. However, like the rest of the side, Valencia improved tremendously after the break, getting forward repeatedly on the counter-attack

CB: Chris Smalling (7) – The embodiment of United’s comeback. Was left grasping thin air as Vincent Kompany shrugged him off for City’s opener, while Raheem Sterling also ran off him easily on a couple of occasions. Recovered well in the second half, and got the winner with a well-taken volley

CB: Eric Bailly (6) – One of his worst displays in a United shirt. Positionally all over the place in the first half, which allowed City to repeatedly make inroads. Improved after the break

LB: Ashley Young (6) – Extremely fortunate to not have conceded a penalty for a daft challenge on Aguero in the second half. Sterling had the measure of him, however, especially in the first half

CM: Nemanja Matic (7) – Struggled to impose himself in the first half, as City passed their way around United’s midfield. Improved massively after the break, snapping into tackles and calmly distributing the ball

CM: Paul Pogba (9) – A true “Jekyll and Hyde” performance. Terrible in the opening half, as he could barely make an accurate pass, and dwelled on the ball far too long, leading to dispossessions on multiple occasions. It was a different player who emerged in the second period, as he got forward extremely well, while putting in a defensive shift. Two superb finishes to bring United on level terms

CM: Ander Herrera (7) – Herrera was haphazard in the first half, as he failed to track his assigned opponent, David Silva, on a number of occasions. Did well later on to disrupt City’s rhythm, and showed the tenacity and bite which made him so effective last season, while also setting up Pogba’s first goal with a beautiful layoff

RW: Jesse Lingard (7) – Led United’s pressing from the front, although was unable to influence the game from an attacking standpoint.

LW: Alexis Sanchez (9) – Was as committed as ever, harrying and pressing City’s defenders, but it did not click in an attacking sense in the first half. Stepped up after the break, and was involved in all three goals, as signs could be seen of a better understanding with his teammates

CF: Romelu Lukaku (7) – Barely involved in attacking moves, especially in the first half, Lukaku put in an extraordinary shift off the ball, which in its own way contributed to the win

Substitutes

LW: Marcus Rashford (N/A) – Pushed City back in the closing stages with his pace

CM: Scott McTominay (N/A) – Kept the ball well and calmed things down when needed

CB: Victor Lindelof (N/A) – Brought on to run down the clock

Man of the Match: Alexis Sanchez

It was a tough choice between Sanchez and Pogba, but Sanchez just shades it in my opinion. He pressed from the front in the first half, even though United struggled to get beyond the halfway line at times, while bursting into life after the break. Sanchez easily got past Nicolas Otamendi and sent in a flat cross for Herrera to chest down for Pogba and United’s first goal, while it were his deliveries from the left flank that were put in by the Frenchman and, later, Chris Smalling. Sanchez showed a much greater understanding with his fellow attackers than has been apparent in recent games, which can only bode well going forward. A superb display in a big game; essentially what he was brought to United to do.

About the Author

Harshal Patel
I like to analyze and write about football tactics, or just football as well. Manchester United obsessed, and hoping that the good times return soon.