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In the boldest call of his short time at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola jettisoned Joe Hart and replaced him with Claudio Bravo to have a ball-playing goalkeeper in his team.
Based on Bravo’s debut in the cauldron of a Manchester derby, some will question if it’s the correct choice.
The Chile international showcased his excellent footwork and footballing brain throughout City’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford, moving outside his area to get involved in play and starting attacks with his passing and long throws.
But other aspects of his performance let him down – notably when he dropped a free kick to the feet of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who volleyed home the loose ball to bring United back into a game it had started so poorly.
The 33-year-old Bravo also courted danger by dribbling round Ibrahimovic in the second half, only to let the ball get away from him. It required a studs-first challenge on Wayne Rooney to clear the ball and avoid a second major mistake.
Every time Bravo received the ball after his error for the goal, United’s fans jeered and heckled the goalkeeper, who showed his personality by continuing to play the ball out from the back – a key reason why he was signed by Guardiola.
“Sometimes (mistakes) happen and the player thinks it’s my fault,” Guardiola said. “Instead Claudio said, ‘OK, it’s football, it’s happened, the situation is unlucky’ and in the second half he played again, and again, and again with the ball.
“I know it’s a risk. If we lose the ball, it’s a goal against us. But when we win with that, we win many, many things. I try to convince the players that it’s the best way to control the game, dominate and concede as few chances as possible.”
Signed late in the transfer window, Bravo has spent most of the last two weeks on international duty and only had two training sessions with his new teammates.
Guardiola had no hesitation putting him into the side for a huge game.
“His personality showed me a lot today,” Guardiola said.
Bravo, who started his footballing career as a striker, demonstrated his technical skills by spraying passes out to the halfway line during the pre-match warmup and he did the same during the game, even when put under pressure by United’s players.
He even started the move that led to City’s opening goal, passing the ball out to Aleksandar Kolarov instead of clearing his lines. Kolarov then sent the ball long, it was flicked on by Kelechi Iheanacho and Kevin De Bruyne ran through to score.
Bravo instigated another dangerous first-half attack by skimming a long throw between two United midfielders and to the feet of De Bruyne.
It’s a cultural change compared to the days of Hart, who was strong on crosses and at shot-stopping but often looked unsure with the ball at his feet. For that reason, he has been sent on loan to Italian side Torino in a move that ended his decade-long spell at City.