Manchester United have stunned neighbours Manchester City, winning 2-0 at the Etihad and reducing the gap to 11 points, keeping their faint title hopes alive.
United have been horrible of late, failing to score in their three previous matches, yet they extended their imperious away record, while snapping City’s 21 game winning streak in all competitions.
Throwing recent form out the window, United flew out the blocks, with striker Anthony Martial brought down in the City box by Gabriel Jesus after just 39 seconds, with Bruno Fernandes converting the resultant penalty.
It could have been two just minutes later, as Luke Shaw had a rasping strike well saved by Ederson.
The England left-back would get his goal in the second half. After goal keeper Dean Henderson released him on a counter attack, a lung-busting run from Shaw and a link-up with Marcus Rashford culminated in a well-placed finish from Shaw on 50 minutes that put United two goals to the good.
It could have been more, but for a wonderful save from Ederson to deny Martial and keep City in the game.
United defended well though, and recorded another memorable win against Manchester City, 12 months to the day that they recorded a 2-0 win over their noisy neighbours at Old Trafford.
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had refuted claims that United were in crisis earlier in the week, and he was delighted with both the performance and the result.
“It is fantastic. The start of course sets the tone for the game and after one minute we have a penalty and a goal. After being positive! Anthony gets the ball and looks forward, he drives inside the box. Be positive, that’s what we want from our players. I am delighted for everyone and especially Anthony, who has had a hard time. I thought he was Man of the Match.”
“Martial was superb today. He was a doubt before the game and Luke was a doubt before the game, the two of them – what a performance by the whole team, but especially the two of them when you think they had to do the warm-up before they could say to me they were alright to go. I am very happy with them and it just shows that we are getting more and more robust, more resilient to little things that maybe before that been ‘oh no I can’t’. We needed them, the team needed them and they knew. I am delighted with the attitude because in games like this you don’t belong to yourself anymore, you belong to Man United. You go out there and do your best for Man United.”
After several slow starts throughout the season, Solskjaer was delighted with how his charges flew out of the blocks, winning an early penalty.
“It sets the tone for the game a little bit and I thought the first 10 to 15 minutes were excellent. We were on the front foot, pressing, making them make mistakes and I thought the tempo was really high. They settled into the possession and pushed us back too much for my liking, and we gave the ball away too much, but still we got to half-time and we could adjust that a little bit, be more positive, don’t think about the result, just have a good performance and win the second half as well.”
With de Gea still on personal leave, Dean Henderson deputised in goal once again, and was singled out for praise from his manager after both keeping a clean sheet and setting up the second goal.
“He’s just growing, maturing, getting more and more mature, so very, very happy with him and just his presence out there you know there’s a future top, top keeper there.”
“You have to defend for so long and they have got players who are incredible. The tactics are brave and they play in such a way where there are threats everywhere – right, left, centre. There is penetration so you have to focus for 90 odd minutes so the boys deserve all of the praise that they will get tonight, but then forget about it because it is AC Milan on Thursday,” concluded Solskjaer.
United have re-found their scoring touch as they approach a crucial part of the campaign, and will hope for more goals when they entertain AC Milan in the Europa League on Thursday.