City continued their form of having won every match in which they have scored first on Sunday as they beat local rivals United 3-1 with two goals from Kevin De Bruyne, who captained the Citizens.
United offered aggression and desire in the first half but in the second half, City’s class showed all too brightly.
City took their lead atop the table back to six points and the match against Liverpool at the Etihad on April 10 looms very large on the horizon.
Ralf Rangnick was unable to name Cristiano Ronaldo for the 187th Manchester derby on Sunday and Pep Guardiola also had dependable Bruno Diaz missing with injury.
It took just four minutes for the opening goal. Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva combined on the left flank and Grealish crossed into the box, to which it was Kevin De Bruyne who reacted the fastest and passed the ball under Harry Maguire to beat David De Gea.
United responded quite well and could have been level through Fred in the ninth minute after a pass from Fernandes but Ederson was quick off his line to smother the Brazilian’s shot. A penalty appeal by Phil Foden in the 18th minute was waved away by referee Michael Oliver.
United got back on equal terms in the 22nd minute and it came from the former City Academy player, Jadon Sancho. After good work from Paul Pogba, Sancho cut inside from the left flank and planted a beautiful strike past Ederson. This silenced the partisan crowd who had been jeering him with ‘City reject’ all match.
City retook the lead five minutes later after United gave away the ball and Foden surged through midfield and went past Harry Maguire by lifting the ball over the United captain’s head but his shot was saved initially by De Gea and after some pinball in the United box, the ball settled for De Bruyne, who calmly fired the ball into the net.
The play was suspended briefly in the 35th minute for a medical emergency behind the United area. Sancho had a chance for a second in the 42nd minute but he skied his effort from the edge of the City box. Riyad Mahrez, who had been quiet all first half, forced De Gea into a sprawling save on the cusp of the interval as City’s dominance grew. United had two consecutive corners at the end of the half and Maguire kneed a ball straight at Ederson to end the half.
City started the second half sloppily-misplacing easy passes and creating turnovers for United to counter-attack. Desperate defending from Joao Cancelo kept Anthony Elanga from getting off a shot as he bore down on the City goal in the 59th minute. De Bruyne then shot straight at De Gea from a free kick on the edge of the box as Guardiola’s men sought a third goal.
Maguire was shown a yellow card for a reckless tackle on De Bruyne as Rangnick sent on Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard for Elanga and Pogba. City scored their third direct from a corner in the 69th minute as Mahrez connected perfectly with a pinged ball, though it took a nick off Maguire’s knee to give De Gea no chance.
After the third insurance goal, City turned on the style, even out-muscling their slightly bigger opponents. United were made to feed on scraps as their energy levels dwindled and City had the time to look for and easily find their passes. Ilkay Gundogan came on for De Bruyne in the 79th minute. What a game by the City captain!
Cancelo tried an extravagant volley that needed saving from De Gea and minutes later Silva’s mazy run needed an urgent tackle from Maguire to stop the attack.
City fans were now doing the ‘Poznan’ – backing the action and jumping on the terraces. Gundogan missed a sitter in the 89th minute but Mahrez added the gloss in the second minute of added time as he pounced on a Gundogan pass and his shot almost smashed De Gea in the face on the way in. A lengthy VAR check was needed but finally, the goal was awarded.
That was a masterclass performance from the league leaders.