Manchester City made 3 changes from their midweek Champions League win over Sevilla. Club-captain Vincent Kompany came-in for Eliaquim Mangala. Aleksandar Kolarov and Fernando were bought-in for Pablo Zabaleta and Jesus Navas.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini shielded the backline with a better defensive-minded midfield-duo of Fernando and Fernandinho, and moved Yaya Toure higher-up the field to support Bony. Raheem Sterling moved to right-wing after impressive displays through the middle against Bournemoth in the league and against Sevilla in the Champions League in midweek. Meanwhile, Louis van Gaal’s side made just one change on the right-side replacing Jesse Lingard with Juan Mata.
An almost similar line-up featured against Everton in the previous game-week. Schneiderlin, Schweinsteiger and Herrera started through the middle, Anthony Martial on the left-side of attack with Rooney up-front. Valencia got the nod over Darmian at right-back possibly due to Sterling’s pace. Manchester City’s Aguero and Silva missed-out, but with Kevin de Bruyne at Pellegrini’s disposal, the deficit was certainly minimized with his equally good goal-scoring and chance-creation attributes.
The first-half saw both sides try to exploit the opposition defences through wing-play; regularly circulating the ball down the flanks and build attacks. While, Manchester United were largely successful in their attempt to exploit the Manchester City full-backs with the directness of Valencia against Kolarov and the quick-dribbling ability of Martial versus Sagna.
Anthony Martial completed 7 of 13 attacking take-ons while suffering 4 fouls in the process. On the opposite flank, Antonio Valencia managed to complete 2 of his 3 take-ons while suffering 2 fouls, but failed to produce a successful cross into the box in 2 attempts alike Martial, who himself failed to find a successful pass into the box from the wing. The quality on the deliveries lacked from a United’s perspective as only twice in 22 attempts the ball met the target.
Meanwhile, Sterling and Kevin de Bruyne didn’t enjoy enough 1v1 opportunities against their counterparts as Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger covered the inside, helping the full-backs. Manchester City’s wingers’ unwillingness to trackback, on occasions, meant either the centre-back or midfielder had to provide support to the full-back; resulting in bookings to Kompany and Fernandinho before the half-time whistle. Manchester City defended in a 4-1-4-1 formation, and heavily pressed in order to block the passes through the middle. United pressed higher-up the field, which left loads of space to exploit in behind the midfield and defence, which was utilised by Manchester City on occasions, but failed to create any real opportunity.
The last 10 Manchester Derbies had an average 4.1 goals per game. In a largely, uneventful Manchester Derby, which recorded only two shots on target from both sides it wouldn’t be false to term the match underwhelming from a fan’s point-of-view, at least. Altogether, both sides played an open style of football whilst they couldn’t provide enough attacking resilience as they possessed defensive stability. Both United and Manchester City ended the first-half with 0 shots on target. Though, Manchester City recorded 4 shots, but non on-target; Manchester United failed to produce 0 shots despite having a greater share of possession (53%).
In the second-half, Manuel Pellegrini decided to change the dynamics of the play by bringing-in Navas for Sterling in order to bring more directness down the left-flank. But, the substitution hardly had an impact on the game. Kevin de Bruyne shifted flanks with the substitution of Navas to utilize the space left by Valencia down on the right-side.
Louis van Gaal made a change on the same flank by giving Lingard a chance removing Mata midway in the second-half. By the end of the match, both teams used all their substitutions, but none of the players could break the deadlock. Marcos Rojo and Bastian Schweinsteiger were stand-outs from a defensive viewpoint with 7 successful tackles and 8 ball recoveries respectively.
In a quite match for both central strikers, Wayne Rooney received just 3 passes in the final-third from a possible 13 attempted. His pass completion rate wasn’t impressive, too (54.8%), and managed just one (blocked) effort on goal. An unsuccessful take-on and 4 failed crosses. Whereas Bony had somewhat similar figures, who managed 4 out of 9 successful attacking passes, failing to produce not once throughout the game.
A couple of opportunities fell late in the game to Manchester United, when a lofted ball over the Manchester City defense caught-out the offside trap, but Lingard’s effort could only meet the crossbar. Another effort fell to Smalling, which made Joe Hart make his first real save of the game. In the process, Joe Hart become the 4th goalie to keep five Premier League clear sheets against Manchester United.
On a day, when a lot was expected from the Derby let alone the teams involved in it a draw was perhaps a convincing result if not a convenient outcome. Both teams can go-on to take positives from the goalless draw. “We are back at the top of the table. It was a very tactical game. I prefer to play in another way but we defended well,” said Manuel Pellegrini in his post-match interview. While Louis van Gaal believed his side were better and had control of the game throughout the 90 minutes. He also expressed his issue with Clattenburg, “We should have had a penalty on Ander Herrera.”
Both manager understood the importance of the game and the result, and decided to take a safer route to a boring draw. The game saw convincing defensive performances from individuals.
In a match, where full-backs performed better than their advanced selves, Kevin de Bruyne was timely tackled by Rojo’s physicality and Fernando could only cover his partner Kolarov, who often tried to overlap Valencia. But, the winger, now an established full-back did a fine job on both fronts.
This fixture was supposed to showcase which side has an upper-hand on various fronts, but a goalless draw between the two teams prior to the busy Christmas period, which is a vital period in the title-race only makes for a more suffocating title-race.