Manchester City will not be able to defend their EFL Cup title this season after a 1-0 loss to Manchester United. Juan Mata provided the winner in a game without any real excitement, and City struggled at times and played a mediocre 90 minutes, which is understandable since Pep Guardiola played a team full of reserves and youngsters.
The game was quite boring in the first half and it lacked quality from both sides: even though United had a lot of their normal starters, they seemed out of sync and couldn't put five passes together while City were very rotated and the lineup change affected the work of possession. Without a real passing midfielder apart from Aleix García, City didn't have players who could control the game and opted for a very direct approach, always looking for long balls to pick up offensive runs and arrive in the opposing box with quick passing sequences.
City couldn't pass, though, and that hurt the amazing movement from the front four, who always gave passing options to the midfielders and full-backs, but they couldn't find the forwards. Apart from a header for Iheanacho inside two minutes that should have gone in, the visitors didn't trouble David De Gea. Willy Caballero didn't have to work at all, with Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic struggling to get away from the fantastic defensive job done by Fernando and Vincent Kompany.
Halftime: 0-0 and no excitement. None.
The second half was a lot better with both teams looking to attack, but United had more talent and their pressure was stronger, and they had sucess. Ibrahimovic was stronger than Otamendi in the box and found Juan Mata, who put the Reds ahead with a nice low shot for the opener.
Guardiola brought Sergio Agüero and Raheem Sterling into the game to add more attacking prowess in search of an equalizer that would send the match into extra-time, but the visitors created no real chances and United held on to the result with a little bit of a parked bus.
Full-time: United through, but an encouraging City performance given this was the second-slash-third team on the pitch. The winless streak is now at six games for Pep's team, but an EFL Cup elimination isn't the end of the world.
United: De Gea | Valencia, Blind, Rojo, Shaw | Carrick, Herrera | Mata (Schneiderlin), Pogba, Rashford (Lingard) | Ibrahimovic
Goal: Mata (54')
City: Caballero | Maffeo, Kompany (Kolarov), Otamendi, Clichy | García, Fernando | Navas, Sané (Sterling), Nolito (Agüero) | Iheanacho
- Fernando had his best game this season, and maybe it was because he wasn't tasked with running the midfield and passing like Xavi or Iniesta; he just needed to defend, and he was marvelous at it. Pogba might still be in his pocket.
- Aleix García looks like a real talent. He looked very composed and calm on the ball, made some really sweet passes, short and long, and seems to be a young player Guardiola will want to use a lot more this season, even in the Premier League.
- Pablo Maffeo should play a lot more. He looked better against United than Zabaleta has looked all season, and Maffeo had to mark none other than Marcus Rashford all night long. That's impressive.
- By the way, you know how Maffeo dominated Rashford? Luke Shaw had Jesus Navas for dinner tonight. Navas has now crossed the line into totally useless.
- Kelechi Iheanacho is a tremendous finisher, but he needs to work on all other parts of his game. Literally all other parts. His first touch lets him down 99% of the time, his passes are either too short or too long, and he looks a little lost on the pitch at times. He's just 19, he'll get better, but his game needs some real work.
- Aleksandar Kolarov is still just as bad as we thought he was. Those two or three games where he played like a world-class central defender were just an illusion.
- City will not have to play a potential four matches thanks to this elimination, meaning Pep will have four full weeks of training over the next three months, which is a very good thing. We don't really need the EFL Cup this season. Right?