The dust is beginning to settle on Sunday’s derby defeat and, while the blues remain on course to take the Premier League title (barring a collapse of epic proportion), questions will still be asked as to why Pep Guardiola’s City just cannot seem to beat United in home matches.
Since the Catalan arrives at the Etihad, City have played six home derbies, yet their only victory over United on home soil came courtesy of a 3-1 win in November 2018. The blues have lost four of those matches and drawn just one and have lost the last three in all competitions.
If you compare this to City’s form at Old Trafford, where the blues have played eight times during Pep’s reign, the blues have won five of those matches, losing twice and drawing once, and there seems to be some sort of pattern emerging, not just from City but both sides.
So, what is it about this fixture that the home team just fail to turn up?
Over the years, blues fans viewed the derby as an opportunity to put one over their neighbours, while United fans actually viewed the derby matches as just another match, while their main rivalry was down the M62 in Liverpool, a fixture that reds fans wanted to win more than a derby.
Times have changed over the last decade or so, with United fans now relishing every derby win they can get and getting one over the blues on our home patch has become enjoyable for them once more. But what is City’s problem with this fixture?
Did Pep Overthink Again?
Guardiola has in the past been accused of over-thinking games, but this has really been limited to Champions League matches. Following defeat against Lyon last season, there was a feeling amongst the faithful that the boss had over-thought his team selection, tactics and generally everything else. He’d committed the same ‘offence’ for the two seasons prior and after Sunday’s defeat, many felt he had done it again.
Questions had been asked on social media as to whether Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne could play in the same team. During de Bruyne’s recent spell on the sidelines, Gundogan stepped up to the mark, not only by producing outstanding performances in midfield, but also chipping in with a hatful of goals that not only propelled City up the table but kept them there. But since de Bruyne has returned to the side, the German seems a little subdued again.
It was probably a surprise to the faithful that Guardiola didn’t name Phil Foden in his starting line-up. The City fan would have relished an opportunity to take on a United defence that has conceded 32 goals in 28 matches, but unfortunately, the youngster didn’t get his chance until 19 minutes form the end, by which time City were 2-0 down and nothing going for them.
Surprisingly, Foden was the one chosen to replace Gabriel Jesus, when some would have questioned why Sergio Aguero, who cut a forlorn figure in the stands, may have been able to make some impact to change the course of the game. City’s top scorer had struggled with injury at the start of the season, then missed a chunk of 2021 due to Covid-19, but the striker is now finding himself in the unusual position of unused sub, and no doubt questions will be raised about his future should he fail to feature at any point in Wednesday’s match at home to Southampton.
Do United Raise Their Game When Playing City?
It’s fair to say that United haven’t exactly been setting the Premier League on fire this season, despite being second in the league. However, the intensity at which the reds started the match on Sunday, laying siege to the City goal and put the defence under a pressure that they had not been under for many of their previous 21 matches, made it clear to blues fans that this was the day United decided to turn up. But why do they always have to do this at the Etihad? Time and again we see it happening.
In 2019, United drew 3-3 at Sheffield United, suffered a shock defeat at Astana in the Europa League, then drew 2-2 at home to Villa, before scraping past Spurs 2-1 at Old Trafford. But in the derby, United turned in a solid display to win 2-1 at the Etihad, recoding their first away win since October. And on Sunday, they did the same. Going into the match on the back of three dull successive 0-0 draws, we should have expected more of the same, but the blues were taken by surprise and struggled to impose any authority in the first ten minutes.
Pressure Off The Blues
But let’s face it, none of us expected City to continue the winning streak until the title is won, but now the blues have tasted defeat, the pressure will be off. Much was made of City’s incredible run and before every match, the same question was asked – will the blues extend the winning run? That question is no longer relevant and hopefully on Wednesday, City will be able to get back to winning ways when Southampton arrive.
There’s obvious disappointment that the run came to an end, just why oh why did it have to be against United? Again!