For a long time, Manchester United had kept humiliation at bay. They scared him when Marcus Rashford scored a wonderful goal early in the game and then defended him with desperate defending even when Manchester City equalized and took the lead in the second half.
Erik ten Hag and his team knew that many people were watching the Manchester derby out of a morbid fascination to see how badly United would be beaten and how comprehensively City would outplay them. And so they were proud of the fact that the margin of victory had not become a cricket result.
And then, just as the clock was ticking into added time at the end of the match, Andre Onana and Sofyan Amrabat made a mess trying to get the ball from behind, Rodri stole the ball from Amrabat and played in Erling Haaland and Haaland passed the ball above Onana to make it 3-1. And suddenly, it felt like humiliation again.
Sure, United had made City work for it. They made City and their fans sweat. They were left worried about whether they would close the title gap on Liverpool again after Liverpool’s last-gasp victory over Nottingham Forest on Saturday. But, ultimately, the class gulf between these teams could not be disguised.
And so City moves on. And so on. And the title race is taking on a familiar feel. Liverpool wins. Then City wins. Liverpool win and City win. Let’s add Arsenal for good measure this time too. Nobody blinks yet. Nobody is bending.
Phil Foden (left) scored two goals to complete a spectacular comeback during the Manchester derby on Sunday afternoon.
The England international found the back of the net twice in the second half to help Manchester City win 3-1 at rivals United.
Erling Haaland (left) scored a late third goal for the champions, who continued their 2023-24 title campaign with another victory.
United had taken the lead early in the tie but were stripped of all three points after conceding three in the second half.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola pumps his fists as his team move one point behind league leaders Liverpool.
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It looked like Liverpool would drop points on Saturday, but they got the job done. And when Marcus Rashford scored a thunderbolt at the Etihad and Haaland missed a goal on the stroke of half-time, of course, some City fans got nervous and wondered if perhaps Liverpool would end this day four points clear.
But City are too good for that. And United are no longer good enough. And in the end, Erik ten Hag’s side were not quality enough to contain a marauding and magnificent Phil Foden, who scored two brilliant goals in addition to the hat-trick he scored against United here last season.
City are now just one point behind Liverpool. And they are 18 points ahead of United. Try as they might, appoint who they could as manager, United just don’t seem capable of closing that quality gap with their noisy neighbours. It increasingly feels like Ten Hag’s time as United boss is running out now that Jim Ratcliffe runs the show. Progress has stalled.
It’s been almost a decade since United lost a Premier League match when they won at half-time, but they now have another statistic against their name. City have won six of the last seven games between the two teams. By any neutral metric, Manchester is theirs.
United started the game with a passionate speech from Ten Hag ringing in their ears. The players, the coach said, had to show “passion, desire, determination and intimidation.” Poignant words, but after two minutes Fernandes was in a familiar pose, doubled over in pain as City laid siege to United’s goal.
And then Fernandes showed his mettle. André Onana kicked a long ball forward and Fernandes stopped Rubén Días as he rebounded and controlled it. Fernandes lifted the ball and returned it into the path of Rashford.
Rashford has been short on confidence this season. United fans have ridiculed him for his apparent lack of effort and commitment. Even a personal essay on his behalf in the Players’ Tribune last week, in which he reaffirmed his dedication, was met with skepticism by many United fans.
Maybe some of that was going through Rashford’s mind when the ball came to him. He hit it for the first time and smashed it towards the goal from 25 yards. He flew like an arrow, past Ederson as he arched his back to try to reach him, and crashed into the underside of the crossbar and into the net in front of the sections where the away fans were.
Marcus Rashord (centre) opened the scoring for the visitors, before the hosts scored three goals in the second half.
Rashford found the back of the net from 25 yards in the first eight minutes to surprise the Etihad crowd.
Rashford glimpsed a chance to double his tally a few minutes later when he raced towards goal from almost halfway up the pitch. However, he had Kyle Walker very close and when he tried to move the ball forward, he hit it to the side and lost momentum and Walker cleared the danger.
Now was City’s chance to clear the score. United’s defense was left bewildered when Onana reached almost halfway to clear. As they made up ground, City passed the ball over United’s high line and Phil Foden crossed the goal. Foden advanced on Onana and shot with his right foot towards the goal, but Onana was equal to it.
The game fell into a predictable pattern of City dominance and United breakdown. But United broke with the purpose and intention. Midway through the half, Rashford ran onto a Scott McTominay cross and attempted his first shot but missed completely. The home fans cheered in delight.
City should have equalized a minute before the break. Rodri played a perfect pass across the box to Foden on the right. Foden headed a perfect header across the goal into the path of Haaland, who was unmarked six yards away.
It looked like Haaland only needed to touch the ball to score, but the striker who scored five goals against Luton Town in midweek somehow lifted his touch over the bar. The ground groaned in disbelief. Rodri couldn’t hide his frustration and punched the air with his fists in anger. Haaland looked horrified. Guardiola sank into his seat, dismayed.
United began the second half with a rare period of possession and Rashford again played in behind the City defence. He jumped on Walker, but Walker was in close pursuit and, as he chased him, Rashford fell to the ground. Referee Andrew Madley signaled for him to continue play. Ten Hag threw his water bottle to the ground in anger.
Foden walked away to celebrate after finding the back of the net for the first time in the match and drawing his team level.
Haaland scored in added time to seal the victory for the home team after a frenetic second half.
A few seconds later, his fury grew. City moved the ball upfield to the edge of the United box. De Bruyne passed to Rodri, Rodri passed to Foden, who was facing Victor Lindelof. Foden turned to his left and out of Lindelof before unleashing an unstoppable upward momentum beyond Onana’s reach. It was a simple goal, golden with a touch of brilliance.
City pushed for the winning goal but survived a scare at the other end 12 minutes from time when Alejandro Garnacho ran onto a through ball and Ederson ran out to meet him. Ederson launched a tackle with Garnacho and got the ball, although he knocked Garnacho down in the process. The VAR verified the incident and decided that there was no penalty.
And then the sequence was repeated: a controversial decision against United followed by a goal for City. And for Foden. Once again, the construction stood out for its beautiful simplicity. De Bruyne passed the ball to Foden, Foden played a 1-2 with Julián Álvarez, took the ball forward and passed it sideways to Onana, who touched it but couldn’t avoid it.
A victory turned into a beating when United gifted Haaland the third. Haaland shrugged, grateful to have gone some way to erasing his first-half mistake. All that was left was for the final whistle to blow, Ten Hag to shake Pep Guardiola’s hand and run down the tunnel.