1) Is the title race over after this result?
This 20th head-to-head meeting of the managers ended with José Mourinho on the wrong end of a defeat and Pep Guardiola the correct one. Indeed Manchester United lost for the first time in 40 matches at home, since Manchester City won at Old Trafford in last season’s corresponding fixture. Far more significant is City now lead by 11 points and whatever is said about there being 22 games and 66 points to play for, the title is there for Guardiola’s men to throw away. As Kevin De Bruyne had mentioned in the build-up, the victory means City have a near four-wins advantage and have now been victorious on the ground of the champions, Chelsea, and the current second-placed team. Unless the Catalan’s men implode he will claim City a third Premier League title in May.
2) Released handbrake backfires for Mourinho
With the selection of Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford behind Romelu Lukaku, Mourinho could not be accused of parking the bus. If this threw up the poser of whether the trio of attackers would prove to be too gung-ho, the way Rashford raced past Kyle Walker and drew an early yellow card from the right-back was one answer. Then, when Rashford tracked back to help Ashley Young along United’s left another was given. Lingard’s closing down of Walker near City’s right-hand corner flag was another and the way Rashford slotted the equaliser also suggested Mourinho’s decision may be prescient. Yet against a relentless City it all amounted to zero as the three – either together or individually – were unable to come at their opponents as Guardiola’s attack did.
3) Gabriel Jesus disappoints as he spurns chances
In dropping Sergio Agüero for the Brazilian, Guardiola traded a time‑proven lethal striker for an effervescent 20-year-old who had previously been No2 to the Argentinian. Jesus also has two goals fewer than Agüero’s 12 for City this season, and the way he spurned chances did not repay his manager’s trust. When put in by Raheem Sterling on one occasion, Jesus should have scored. Then a Fernandinho goal-bound shot hit him. There was a further scuffed attempt with the left boot and after 58 minutes Guardiola admitted his error by taking the Brazil striker off. But what must Agüero have thought when on came Eliaquim Mangala, a defender, for Jesus? The former’s crestfallen face at the final whistle spoke loudly.
4) City’s centre-back axis is cause for concern
Rewind to early September and the league leaders’ glaring weakness in defence is shown up by a Liverpool who continually drove past Nicolás Otamendi with pace at the Etihad Stadium. Sadio Mané’s red card changed that contest and City scored five unanswered goals, yet here there was more evidence of the Argentinian’s fragility. So, too, regarding the injury‑ravaged Vincent Kompany, who was taken off at half‑time, as Fernandinho dropped to centre-back. Otamendi is a threat going forward, as was shown by his winner – a fifth goal of term – and hassling of Romelu Lukaku for David Silva’s opener, yet his mistake allowed Marcus Rashford’s equaliser. John Stones is unavailable with a hamstring problem, and if Kompany is ruled out again maybe City may finally prove vulnerable.
5) No Pogba, no punch, no midfield control
After the Frenchman returned from a long layoff due to a hamstring injury Mourinho admitted his team are weakened severely without him. Yet after six games back Pogba was suspended for red card at Arsenal so in came Ander Herrera, with the manager hoped his earlier admission would not come back to haunt him. It did. Before and after Rashford’s finish United lacked any control in midfield, when what Pogba offers is this and more – domination. Herrera is just not able to run a contest like the 24-year-old France international and the contest shone up this deficiency. Herrera was also lucky not to concede a penalty when grappling with Otamendi and was later booked for an obvious dive near the same player in City’s area.