Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United lost the first derby clash of the season with a 2-1 margin against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The blues came forward in the first half of the game with full speed and took the game to United at Old Trafford.
Aleksandar Kolarov gives a brilliant long pass to to Kelechi Iheanacho who heads the ball to Kevin De Bruyne who calmly puts the ball past David De Gea into the net to take the lead in 15th minute. 21 minutes later, Iheanacho this time scores an easy goal from two yards to double City’s lead before a well controlled volley from Zlatan Ibrahimovic after a Claudio Bravo howler pulled one back for the hosts in the 42nd minute.
United played much better in the second half and had most of the chances which were spoiled by non-clinical finishing from the main strikers.
The loss extended the head-to-head lead in favour of Pep to 8-3 and the question raised after the match by fans and pundits alike was, did Jose get the team wrong? Mourinho threw in a surprise in the team selection by replacing Anthony Martial and Juan Mata with Henrik Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard. Both the players had injury concerns before the City clash.
Lingard sustained an ankle twist in United’s first match of the season in the Community Shield against Leicester City and had not been selected in a single game since then. Mkhitaryan sustained a thigh injury in his international game for Armenia and was suspected to be out of field for 10 days.
Two days before the game, Mourinho gave an update on the players, saying they were all available. But he sounded skeptical regarding Mkhitaryan’s fitness. “He is available. I’m not saying he’s ready to play 90 minutes but he’s ready to try to help us.”
Both the players, starting their first game of the season, looked unfit and unimpressive on the pitch in the first half. Lingard got his first touch wrong twice in a matter of five minutes, much to the annoyance of the Old Trafford faithful, while Mkhitaryan was clumsy with his passing. Both were replaced in the second half with Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera. Rashford did more in 30 second on the pitch than Lingard could do in 45 minutes.
Rashford came out on top with his immaculate dribbling skills inside the box but was left disappointed by the finishing from his teammates.
It appears that the choice to put in players with injury woes over in-form ones cost United their glory.
Mourinho after the game himself admitted that he lost the game because of individual performances, but did not pin it on Mkhitaryan and Lingard.
“It was not just about them (Mkhitaryan and Lingard). Other players were also not playing really well… I made a couple of decisions that I thought individual qualities of certain players would give me what I know that I want and I didn’t get it,” Mourinho said.
Mourinho’s arch-rival Guardiola has now taken one-up on the Portuguese, and it seems “the chosen one” has to be much more careful in his team selection in the coming games to leap back into the top of the table.