United made a statement at Etihad to announce their resurgence

Photo: The Mirror

In a night that witnessed the drama of the highest order, attacking and counterattacking football at its very helm, and disgraceful acts of attacking the players from the stands, Manchester United walked away with the bragging rights over their city rivals in an extremely closely contested encounter.

Right from the outset of the game, City stepped on the gas as they started hurling in those offensives from both the planks, spearheaded by Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. However, Aaron Wan-Bissaka came out in flying colours against the incessant gung-ho from Sterling and McTominay combined brilliantly with Luke Shaw to thwart Kevin De Bruyne’s heroics from the right.

United’s first sortie came as early as in the second minute, when Martial stormed into the City attacking-third and fed Fred with a delectable ball to tee up a surging James in return. With acres of space to fire, the youngster bundled his effort straight into the arms of Ederson.

City’s counterblast to this attacking enterprise of United came in the very next minute as David Silva rifled a piledriver from an acute angle only to be refuted by the United defence.

Following a topsy-turvy affair at both ends, United was again found tugging at the strings when Lingard blasted a meaty shot from a very tight angle only to be warded off by the feet of Ederson Moraes.

Despite exhibiting utter belligerence, City failed to find their footing as an alert United rearguard was always up to the task of warding off their neighbours in pompous fashion. United was once again on the move when Martial’s low-drilled effort was thwarted by a heroic dive from the Brazilian custodian under the City sticks.

With an electrifying game in the making, Rashford’s blistering speed won United a spot-kick in the 20th minute. Trying to prise himself out of the duo of Bernardo Silva and John Stones, the English marksman came a cropper after Silva knocked him over and clipped his heel. 

Despite, the referee declining the protests of the spot-kick, with the intervention of VAR, it was awarded. It was Rashford who stepped up and steered off Ederson in another direction and drew first blood for United.

City would have considered themselves fortunate when Rashford curled one of his efforts wide off the first post and rattled the woodwork with another.

With beautiful counter-attacks threaded one after the other, the second goal was coming shortly for United. It came when James and Martial combined brilliantly and the Frenchman turned crisply and fired home United’s second, averting the outstretched fingers of Ederson, sending the City fans into a stunned silence.

City’s first veritable opportunity that could have begot a goal came around the 38th-minute mark when De Bruyne threaded a delectable ball into the mixer and a diving Gabriel Jesus couldn’t get his header on target.

With all said and done, De Gea was still to be tested with an assertive effort from City and it was Rodri who asked the question to the Spanish custodian when he let fly off a brilliant curler towards the goal and De Gea parried it away with tantamount brilliance.

Amongst all of this frenetic pandemonium between the two sides that produced a fine game until then, on the 69th minute while Fred was about to take a corner, a handful of City fans launched lighters and water bottles at the United players that disrupted the game’s momentum. Fred took one on the back but this unacceptable behaviour soured the environment of an otherwise fine game.

Otamendi blew life into the game as he muscled Wan Bissaka and powered home a thumping header to half the cushion for United in the 85th minute.

Despite pulling off this late goal, United’s resolute defence refused to succumb to the City pressure in the dying embers of the game and with almost six defenders deployed to thwart City’s essays, Ole Gunnar Solskajer had the last laugh when an endless span of five long minutes came to an end.

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