Manchester City were at our magnificent best to sweep Manchester United aside with a 3-1 victory at Old Trafford that puts us in a commanding position at the halfway stage of our Carabao Cup semi-final. Pep Guardiola’s side blew the hosts away with a sublime first half performance, in which the brilliant Bernardo Silva scored with a sensational strike and set one up for Riyad Mahrez, before Kevin De Bruyne forced Andreas Pereira to concede an own goal. United gained more of a foothold in the game after the break and Marcus Rashford’s breakaway goal reduced the deficit 20 minutes from time. It took some of the shine off a dominant performance, but it was City’s day and we deservedly take a two-goal lead into the second leg at the Etihad Stadium in three weeks time.
WHAT HAPPENED Guardiola had said beforehand he would not change his approach in response to the Reds’ pace on the counter-attack, which proved City’s undoing in December’s Premier League defeat. Rashford skipped past Otamendi in the opening exchanges to fire an early reminder of that threat, but it proved to be a false alarm in a first half which belonged to the visitors. Led by the twin false nines of Bernardo and De Bruyne, City swarmed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side and dictated proceedings throughout. The Portuguese schemer was the architect of everything good about City and opened the scoring with a goal suitably impressive for a game of such significance. Collecting the Kyle Walker’s square pass 30-yards from goal, he checked inside on the edge of the box and arrowed an unstoppable drive into the top right corner, that kissed the underside of the bar and gave David De Gea no chance. Raheem Sterling had two shots blocked after good work from Kyle Walker, before Bernardo produced a second slice of magic. Picking the ball up on the halfway he threaded a slide rule pass into in behind the United defence and with the stretching Victor Lindelof succeeding only in helping into more kindly into Mahrez path, the Algerian rounded De Gea with ease to add the second. Six minutes later it looked as if City were out of sight. Showing our own prowess on the counter, Bernardo again released Mahrez only for Brandon Williams to make a recovery tackle. The left-back only succeeded in turning it into De Bruyne’s path, however, and when the Belgian’s drop of the shoulder left Phil Jones floundering, De Gea’s save from his drilled effort rebounded onto Pereira and into the back of the net. The Brazilian fired over from 30-yards shortly after to reflect the superiority of City’s attacking play, with Williams’ tame effort after the break also suggesting United would struggle to mount a comeback. City continued to push for a fourth, with Mahrez forcing De Gea into a good save with his feet, but United rallied and were stronger as the game progressed. Substitute Angel Gomes nipped in to steal De Bruyne’s underhit pass off Rodrigo’s toes and when Rashford was freed by Mason Greenwood’s through ball, the United skipper picked out the bottom right corner to net a goal which will give the Reds’ hope. Rashford went for the spectacular late on, hitting a dipping effort from 30-yards after the City defence backed off, but it was too close to Claudio Bravo, who saved to ensure the scoreline reflected City’s dominance across the 90 minutes.
MAN OF THE MATCH: BERNARDO SILVA Who else? This was a performance of the highest quality from the Portuguese schemer, who, it should not be forgotten, was asked to play in an unfamiliar position as City’s most advanced attacker. He was everywhere and United couldn’t get a grip of him. It was a fantastic goal, a brilliant assist for the second and he was involved in the third, too.
STATZONE This was Riyad Mahrez’s 19th start in all competitions this season and in those games he has directly contributed to 15 goals, scoring six times and providing nine assists.
WHAT IT MEANS City’s healthy lead at the halfway stage in this two-legged affair means a win or a draw at the Etihad Stadium would see us book our place in a third consecutive Carabao Cup final. Away goals do not count in this tie, so should United draw level on aggregate, the game would go straight to penalties at the end of 90 minutes.
WHAT'S NEXT? City return to Premier League action on Sunday, with a trip to Aston Villa that gets under way at 16:30 (UK). The second leg of this this semi-final tie takes place in three weeks’ time. We’ll host United on Wednesday 29 January, with kick-off at 19:45 (UK).
Manchester United (1): De Gea; Wan-Bissaka, Lindelöf, Jones, Williams; Fred, Pereira; James (Gomes, 64’), Rashford, Lingard (Matic, 45’); Greenwood (Martial, 81’)
Manchester City (3): Bravo; Walker, Fernandinho, Otamendi, Mendy; Rodri, De Bruyne (Gabriel Jesus, 79’), Gündogan; Mahrez (Foden, 86’), Bernardo Silva, Sterling