Manchester City played and lost their first game of preseason in Houston, Texas against Manchester United in the first Derby played outside of the UK. The NRG Stadium saw a very entertaining match with a great first half that saw two goals from United and a few good chances from City. In the end, the Red Devils won 2-0 and remain unbeaten in their three preseason matches so far.
For City, losing the game wasn’t a nice thing. Losing is never nice, and it’s even worse when it’s against your biggest rivals. But here’s the thing: losing the Derby doesn’t matter. Not even a little bit.
Consider this: it was City’s first preseason match after just 10 days of training, and many of the players who appeared on Thursday took part in just two or three days of training. It was even more extreme for Yaya Touré and Leroy Sané, who arrived on the day of the game and still managed to play 45 minutes each just because they wanted to play.
United started training three weeks ago, and they had already played two preseason matches against MLS teams (LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake). José Mourinho’s team is simply better than City in terms of preparation, especially given United have some pretty important games at the start of the season and need to be in great shape before City.
For the Blues this was just about playing football again, running around on the pitch and losing a few extra pounds gained during the off-season. A few players won’t even be in the team once the season starts, and those who are leaving know they don’t really need to give their all to impress Pep Guardiola and are just there getting ready to play for their new clubs.
And there were plenty of positives from the first preseason match: Éderson Moraes looked very solid in goal, despite a terrible mistake that led to Romelu Lukaku’s opener. The Brazilian made some great saves throughout the game and showed composure and accuracy with his passing game, which will be crucial for the season ahead.
Kyle Walker played the whole 90 minutes and looked fantastic, dealing with the pace of Marcus Rashford in the first half before facing the skills of Anthony Martial in the second period, and the former Tottenham Hotspur star showed why his immense price tag will be worth it once the real competition begins.
Young Phil Foden impressed everyone with his incredible performance, showing amazing composure, passing ability, individual skills and positional awareness that are not common for a 17-year-old. If he maintains the form from his first game in the rest of preseason, we might see him promoted to the first team a lot sooner than expected. Pep Guardiola was already a big Foden fan, and the manager is absolutely over the moon with the kid’s performance. We’ll see a lot more from him, without a doubt.
All told, it was just good to see City playing again, and we saw a lot of positives that go beyond a meaningless result, even though this was a rivalry match. Don’t worry about preseason results. They really don’t matter.