MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 10, (AFP): Manchester United’s defensive deficiencies gifted Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City a 2-1 derby victory on Sunday that allowed them to establish a massive 11-point lead in the Premier League.
Romelu Lukaku was United’s fall guy, his failure to clear two set-pieces enabling David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi to score either side of Marcus Rashford’s opportunistic equaliser in first-half injury time.
City’s win at a snowy Old Trafford was their 14th in succession in the Premier League, equalling the English top-flight record and setting a new benchmark for consecutive victories within the same campaign.
It also gave City an enormous advantage at the summit and with Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal having all lost ground this weekend, it will take a calamity to deprive Guardiola’s team of the title.
Guardiola has beaten opposite number Jose Mourinho in nine of their 20 meetings and this latest win came with the added satisfaction of denying United a club-record 41st home game without defeat.
City were also the last team to emerge victorious at Old Trafford, winning 2-1 in Guardiola’s first Manchester derby in September 2016.
United saw a run of four wins come to an end and having lost eight of the last 13 derbies, they will find it harder to play down talk of a Manchester power shift.
In switching to a back four and naming a fleet-footed attacking quartet of Rashford, Lukaku, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial, Mourinho made it clear he would look to hit City on the break.
The visitors were allowed to make the running and their crisp exchanges gave United moments of alarm on the edge of their own penalty area.
Raheem Sterling created a shooting chance after a neat-one two with Gabriel Jesus and Jesus procured a sight of goal by sending Marcos Rojo crashing to the turf, but both players shot straight at David de Gea.
City made De Gea work hard for the first time in the 42nd minute when Leroy Sane controlled Fabian Delph’s deep cross on his thigh and obliged the Spaniard to tip his rasping drive over the bar.
United looked more enterprising early in the second half, but another set-piece in the 54th minute – and another Lukaku blunder – would prove their undoing.
In attempting to clear Silva’s free-kick from the City left, Lukaku succeeded only in swiping it against Chris Smalling and Otamendi followed Silva’s first-half lead by beating De Gea with an acrobatic volley.
In Liverpool, Wayne Rooney scored his first goal in a Merseyside derby as his late penalty earned Everton a 1-1 draw with Liverpool on Sunday. Liverpool had taken the lead in the 229th meeting of the old rivals when Mohamed Salah spectacularly curled a shot home just before half-time, but the Reds were unable to find a killer second goal at Anfield.
Everton kept their discipline and refused to wilt and were awarded a spot-kick after Dejan Lovren barged over Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Rooney, who rejoined his boyhood club from Manchester United in July, showed no nerves as he equalised with 13 minutes left.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp made six changes from the side which thrashed Spartak Moscow 7-0, including the surprise decision to leave Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino on the bench.
Dominic Solanke and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were selected ahead of the Brazilian duo while Andrew Robertson replaced Alberto Moreno at left-back.
The start was typical of a Merseyside derby; feisty tackles, misplaced passes, no chances taken with clearances booted into row Z if required.
Liverpool looked to show the early attacking intent, with Salah and Sadio Mane on the ball frequently with an eagerness to run at Everton’s defence. After 15 minutes the game settled, Liverpool monopolising possession with Everton’s two banks of four happy to sit deep and seek to frustrate the home side.
Liverpool carved out an opening just before the half-hour mark when Mane received the ball on the byline and cut it back for Solanke inside the box, but under pressure from Tom Davies the striker scuffed his effort.
Everton fought hard, with Rooney using his strength to shoulder James Milner to the ground to the approval of the visiting supporters.