Thanks for reading this MBM!
BT talk to Erik ten Hag. “The first half we played very well. We defended very well. We were proactive, with good opportunities on the break. At half-time I was very happy with that, though we should have been 1-0 up. After that it changed, we had to sub Martial and that changed the game. We were not proactive any more, and just before I wanted to change, they scored. But the spirit in the team is so huge. The belief is there, that the game is 90 minutes and they can fight back. We are in a good direction but there is still a long way to go.”
As for the Rashford offside incident? “It’s a confusing moment for the opponent. But if you follow the rules, he didn’t touch the ball, he was not interfering and it’s a goal. Bruno came from the back, I could see that from the other side.”
Pep Guardiola speaks to BT. “We played really good. They are an incredible threat in their transitions, I congratulate the team. They run behind us and punished us in the transitions. Rashford was offside, he distracted our keeper and distracted our central defenders. The rule is the rule but I know how we play. The second half was really good. We missed a little bit up front, we were a little bit disconnected, but we made a fantastic game. I don’t care about the Premier League or the Carabao Cup, we cannot win. We have won a lot so it is not a problem. Problem is we have performed like we have done. Today we performed. We focus on Spurs in a few days.”
The managers will be on the mic soon, so don’t leave us yet. However, Jamie Jackson’s report has landed, so open up another tab and dive in.
… then Marcus Rashford has his say on the subject. “Everyone’s putting a shift in now. Anything is possible.”
Bruno Fernandes sends a shot across someone’s bow on BT Sport ... but who could he be aiming at? “It was an amazing comeback from the team. We look like a team now. Some time ago you could see some of us looking a little bit for ourselves, but now you see a proper team that works hard for each other, and it pays.”
… and as for Marcus Rashford’s involvement in the equaliser, here’s Bruno’s take: “He doesn’t have any influence because there was nobody close to him. So he doesn’t make any influence on the team-mates to defend. The only one close was the one close to me, so it is what it is. It’s a goal.”
Here’s our man Will Unwin’s instant take on the match. “The offside for Manchester United’s equaliser will be seen as highly controversial for the remainder of the season. Awarding the goal made little sense considering the involvement of Rashford but the officials felt his part in the goal was not against the rules. It turned the tide of the match in United’s favour and could have a heavy impact on the title race. Guardiola is understandably unhappy and will likely tell the world in the next half an hour. United worked hard to stay in the game and made the most of their second half chances. It was not a classic but it will be remembered due to the officials. The joys of football.”
United are elated. A huge smile on Erik ten Hag’s face. Old Trafford bouncing. City are furious. Rightly or wrongly, there’s going to be some debate over Marcus Rashford’s role, or non-role, in the equaliser. But here we are. Ederson and Jack Grealish take turns to berate the referee, who isn’t having a bar of it. The champions trudge off. A third title in a row isn’t exactly out of reach – they’ve still got to play Arsenal twice, for a start – but their task has been made a lot harder after this huge result. Not least because their neighbours are now breathing down their neck. A big day in the north.
FULL TIME: Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
There’ll be some controversy over United’s equaliser, no doubt, but what a response by Erik ten Hag’s side! They’re in the title race now all right. A great result for Arsenal, too.
90 min +5: Grealish curls in from the right this time. Some head tennis in the United box. The hosts stand firm, and the ball squirts through to De Gea. That should be it!
90 min +4: Grealish dances down the left and curls a delicious ball towards Haaland at the far post. Haaland winds his neck back but Shaw intervenes just in time. What fine last-ditch defence! Old Trafford reverberates to a cacophony of whistles.
90 min +3: The clock ticks on, and City aren’t applying too much pressure on United.
90 min +2: Rashford, Casemiro and Malacia make way for McTominay, Maguire and Martinez.
90 min +1: The first of five extra minutes sees United launch a three on two. Rashford hesitates on the edge of the City box and the danger is gone.
90 min: De Bruyne slips the free kick down the right towards Walker. It’s underhit, allowing Antony and Garnacho to take turns to block. That’s uncharacteristically dismal by De Bruyne, who has wasted a good opportunity to cause United some bother.
88 min: Fred is booked for bringing down an in-flight Grealish. Before the free kick can be taken, Casemiro goes down clutching his left leg. On comes the physio.
86 min: De Bruyne rolls a ball infield from the right. Haaland swings a leg at it, only to fall over. He claims an illegal intervention by Casemiro, but there’s nothing in it. Certainly not as far as the referee and VAR officials are concerned. Haaland and Guardiola are livid. If there was any contact – and it’s not clear one way or the other after a couple of replays – it would have been a soft decision.
84 min: Fernandes is down nursing an injury in the clock-management style.
83 min: The lid of Old Trafford is currently coptering its way down the M62.
GOAL! Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City (Rashford 82)
What a turnaround! Garnacho twists and turns down the left. It looks as though there’s nothing on, but Garnacho keeps probing. One last drop of the shoulder creates a little bit of space away from Ake, and he fires a low cross into the centre. Rashford is the most alive, and he sticks out a leg to poke under Ederson from six yards!
80 min: There was a pause for VAR to confirm the goal. Was Rashford interfering with play, despite not touching the ball? VAR says no, and it’s a decision BT Sport’s Peter Walton says is in line with updated rules. A big ten minutes plus stoppages coming up!
GOAL! Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City (Fernandes 78)
Casemiro rolls a pass down the inside-right channel to release Rashford, who is well offside. Rashford runs alongside the ball, but doesn’t touch it. Fernandes, coming behind him, gives him a shout. Rashford leaves it. Fernandes opens his body and whips across Ederson and into the right-hand side of the net. What a finish!
77 min: … meanwhile things nearly kick off in the middle as Rashford’s run is checked, not in a particularly legal way, by Rodri. The referee tells them both to stop squabbling.
76 min: Garnacho tears down the left. He’s got Rashford free in the middle, but can’t get a cross away. Akanji then steps across him to bully him off the ball and usher it away from danger. That’s great defending, and he draws a foul from the young winger who tugs Akanji’s shirt in frustration.
74 min: Garnacho probes down the left. No way through this time, but the excitement is palpable when this young man gets the ball at his feet. Can he repeat his late-game heroics against Fulham?
72 min: Eriksen is replaced by Garnacho. “Does the 6th to the 14th count as a while in Richard Hirst’s world?” wonders Adam Roberts. “Most would consider what David de Gea did against Everton a howler.”
70 min: Grealish brushes his own man Cancelo off the ball and dribbles his way down the left. He wins a throw and smiles warmly. He’s enjoying his football right now. From the throw, De Bruyne and Haaland pressure Wan Bissaka down the inside-left channel, but the ball pings through to De Gea, who catches it with [for the attention of Gary Naylor] his hands. There we go!
68 min: United waste the corner. Meanwhile, Gary Naylor is not letting the subject of last night’s game between Villa and Leeds drop. “In a similar situation last night, Emi Martinez flung himself across the goal and made the save. Why isn’t De Gea doing that? He has to get airborne and closer to Grealish - another instance of this increasingly strange keeper’s reluctance to use his hands.”
67 min: Fred tees up Wan-Bissaka, rushing in from the right. His low drive is deflected out for a corner by Ake. United’s first response to going behind. The noise in Old Trafford goes up accordingly.
65 min: Varane looks to release Fernandes down the inside-left channel with a clever diagonal pass. The ball is intercepted by the telescopic leg of Akanji, an intervention that denies Fernandes a clear run on goal. That’s top-drawer defending.
64 min: Grealish swans his way past Eriksen with amazing grace. He’s cynically clipped from behind and Eriksen goes into the book.
63 min: That was City’s first attempt on target in over a game and a half. Worth waiting for, huh.
62 min: What an impact by Grealish, who had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes. Given his similar instant contribution after coming off of the bench at Chelsea, he’s developing quite the reputation as a supersub.
GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City (Grealish 60)
This had been coming! De Bruyne is slipped into the United box down the right, a cute pass from Mahrez. He stands one up into the middle for Grealish, who rises at the far post and plants a header into the top left from six yards. Easy as that! Fine goal. United picked apart forensically.
59 min: Grealish and Cancelo twist and turn down the left. They can’t find a way through United’s back line, but City are beginning to press their hosts back now. The momentum is with them.
57 min: Grealish comes on for Foden. Then a City corner leads to a game of head tennis in the United box. The hosts clear up eventually, but City are beginning to carry a threat at long last.
56 min: Cancelo dribbles down the left only to fall over in the box under pressure from Casemiro. He claims a penalty but neither referee nor VAR shows any interest in awarding one. “It seems to have been a while since a De Gea howler, so maybe we are due one today. Seems the most likely way for City to score.” Richard Hirst there, in a bid to offend both sets of fans with one short missive.
54 min: De Bruyne and Mahrez combine down the right. De Bruyne’s away! He sends a cross towards Silva at the far stick. Silva should surely go for goal, but heads across the face of it instead, allowing Varane to half-clear. Foden battles but can’t keep the move alive.
52 min: Eriksen swings the free kick into the mixer. Casemiro goes over, claiming a penalty. Varane sends an effort towards the top left. It’s clawed away by Ederson. The flag goes up for offside on Varane, while Casemiro tripped over his own feet. We move on.
51 min: Eriksen loops a long ball down the right for Antony, who runs straight into Ake. He comes off worst in a 50-50. Play goes on for a few seconds before the referee decides to give United a free kick. It’s a generous decision.
50 min: City hog the ball but do very little with it.
48 min: Walker storms into space down the middle of the park. He thinks about threading a through ball for Haaland, but instead finds Silva in acres to his left. Silva advances on the box and takes a shot that harmlessly bounces through to De Gea. “On what basis do Premier League refs calculate stoppage time?” wonders Robert Speed. “Two longish injury stoppages that half and Attwell adds one minute?” It’s almost as though Premier League referees randomly pull their decisions out of the back of their breeks.
47 min: De Gea’s poor clearance is headed straight back by Mahrez, nearly releasing De Bruyne down the right. There’s just enough on Mahrez’s header for De Gea to reclaim possession. “This might be a question more for The Knowledge,” begins Declan O’Brien, and yes, the MBM knows its place, “but given that City haven’t managed a shot on target in today’s 46 mins and drew a total blank in that regard over 100 odd minutes at St Mary’s, has there ever been a run like this under Pep’s command before?”
City get the second half started. United have made a change, with Antony coming on … but it’s not for Rashford, who is good to continue despite pulling up with that hip problem near the end of the first half. Martial, who was rumoured not to be fully fit before the game, is the man he replaces.
There have been goals in the WSL game between Aston Villa and Spurs, though. Sarah Rendell can get you up to speed on that one.
Here’s Will Unwin’s take from Old Trafford: “Those expecting Manchester City to bounce back from the loss to Southampton with an impeccable display will be disappointed with their first half offering. The recent flaws of individuals being 5-10% below their best were frequently highlighted through poor passing and decision-making. Even Ederson joined in with a dreadful choice to run out of goal, allowing Marcus Rashford to round him, only for his shot to be stopped by Manuel Akanji. United looked disciplined, every player knowing their role and executing it perfectly to make them difficult to break down and dangerous on the counter and arguably should have scored twice through Rashford. Overall: not a classic.”
HALF TIME: Manchester United 0-0 Manchester City
There’s just enough time for Walker to pearl a 30-yard shot inches wide of United’s right-hand post, and that’s the end of the first half. City had the most possession, United the better chances. Erik ten Hag’s side may be a little frustrated as a result, but look at it this way: they’re four goals better off than they were at this stage at the Etihad back in October.
45 min: Mahrez is bundled over by Casemiro on the edge of the United D. The referee Stuart Attwell waves play on. That’s a poor decision, and United have got away with one there.
43 min: … but the physio comes on and manipulates his leg awhile. Rashford is good to continue! Given the way he went down, that’s something of a pleasant surprise.
41 min: The in-form Rashford pulls up while in pursuit of Akanji, holding his left hip. He falls backwards and bashes his hands on the turf in frustration. That reaction doesn’t speak of good news.
40 min: Foden down the left. He’s got options in the middle, but his pass infield goes nowhere near anyone in sky blue. The story of City’s first half.
38 min: De Bruyne bustles down the right but upon reaching the byline his dinked cross is plucked from the air by De Gea with much insouciance. “Mr Naylor here acting like Leeds are above pragmatism,” responds Matthew Richman, with specific reference to this.
37 min: It’s Eriksen who sends Rashford romping down the left this time. Rashford enters the box, burning his way past Rodri, but takes a heavy touch that allows Ederson to smother at his feet. United are looking much the more likely.
36 min: That near miss seems to have sparked City back to life. De Bruyne curls in a cross from the right. Foden, of all people, rises high in the hope of heading home at the far stick. He can’t get anything on target. A little bit better from City, but De Gea hasn’t had a save to make yet.
34 min: The game restarts. Fernandes shovels a long pass down the left to release Rashford into acres. Ederson suffers a rush of blood to the noggin and comes racing out of his box. He’s never getting to the ball. Rashford rounds him on the left and shoots low for goal. Akanji clears off the line. United try to keep the pressure on, Casemiro swinging in from the right. Martial unsuccessfully competes and Ederson, back in situ, claims.
32 min: Malacia and Walker tussle. A cheeky shove here, a sly trip there. Malacia comes off worse, falling on his head. The play stops as he gets the once over.
30 min: Ederson blooters long. Straight to De Gea, who hoicks back upfield. The football of 1987 had its own strange charm.
28 min: This game has settled down a bit. A tad slower. City are still enjoying more of the possession, but United have looked marginally sharper in attack. There’s not much in it, to be fair.
26 min: Rashford, quarterbacking from deep, sprays a glorious diagonal ball towards Fernandes, just to the left of the D. The ball rears up off the turf and Fernandes can’t stop it going out for a goal kick. Still, while that pass was sailing through the air, a world of possibility briefly opened up.
24 min: The first slight sight of goal for Haaland, who nearly finishes a fine City passing sequence by taking up possession just inside the United box on the right, cutting inside, and shooting. But his shot is blocked by – who else? – Casemiro.
22 min: Cancelo pings a clever pass down the inside-left channel towards Foden, who has a yard on Wan-Bissaka. But up pops the offside flag. “It’s boring all this waiting for a transition to attack isn’t it?” asks Gary Naylor, spoiling for a row. “Give me two minutes of Leeds’ full-throttle, high-risk attacking last night above 20 minutes of this powerpoint football.” Wait until you get him on the subject of Everton.
20 min: Mahrez and Walker combine crisply down the right and win a corner off Malacia. Haaland’s barely touched the ball yet, but all eyes are on him here, nonetheless. But Mahrez’s delivery doesn’t go anywhere near him. United clear their lines.
18 min: A chance for De Bruyne to break down the left. But he hesitates slightly, allowing Fred, who has clearly been detailed to track his every move, to slide in and steal the ball. The crowd very much enjoyed that.
16 min: De Bruyne bustles down the right this time but Fred sticks to him tightly. The ball ricochets between them and out for a goal kick. De Bruyne looks a bit frustrated when the bounce doesn’t go his way.
15 min: De Bruyne works his way down the left but his pass infield is intercepted and United counter. Eriksen blooters down the left to release Martial into space. Martial crosses low, hoping to find either Rashford or Martial, but Ake hooks clear. United try again, Martial looping high into the box this time. Ederson deals with that one.
13 min: City draw some of the sting from the game with a period of patient passing around the back.
11 min: Silva ships possession carelessly in midfield, a pass through the centre circle to nobody, and United counter again. Eriksen slides Fernandes in down the right. Fernandes enters the box and drags a shot across Ederson and well wide left of goal. That was a chance, and Fernandes grimaces accordingly.
9 min: This game is being played at 101 miles per hour. City are pressing hard, as they are wont to do. United are dealing with it well, though, holding their own and threatening to give as good as they’re getting. They harry City and Malacia is pinged into space down the left. He crosses dangerously, but the flag goes up for offside again.
7 min: De Bruyne spins away from Fred with ease on the right touchline and sends the ball across towards Cancelo on the other flank. Cancelo’s deep cross is easily cleared by United, who attempt to launch one of their trademark blistering transitions, but the flag goes up when Martial wanders offside.
5 min: City are enjoying the lion’s share of possession during these early exchanges. No great surprise there.
3 min: Cancelo rolls a fine pass down the left for Silva, who crosses long towards Mahrez. For a moment, it looks promising for City, but Malacia fights hard to wrestle the ball away from Mahrez, to the deep joy of the home fans. That’s fine defending.
2 min: An early sign of both teams’ intent as Martial climbs all over Akanji, who stands his ground. Then an in-flight Cancelo is unceremoniously brought down by Eriksen. Everyone’s up for this all right, but it’s the Manchester derby, so that’s hardly jaw-dropping news.
United get the ball rolling. City are kicking towards the Stretford End in this first half. Incidentally, our old MBM pal Will Unwin is on a busman’s holiday at Old Trafford this afternoon, and here’s his first breaking missive: “Peter Reid is in the directors’ box dressed like a private detective in a fedora. The Rooney family are on the row behind.”
The teams are out! United in red, City sky blue. A lot of friendly banter between both sets of players in the tunnel. Some post-World Cup catching up no doubt. In a studio somewhere, Roy Keane and Gary Neville are studies in apoplexy. Amid all the friendly hubbub, Erling Haaland stands tall, alone at the back, staring straight ahead in a world of his own, in the zone, preparing for action. Jock Wallace would approve. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes.
… and while we’re on the subject of fans telling it the way they see it …
The City players complete their warm-up and traipse back to the changing rooms. There’s a lovely moment as the United fans near the tunnel start to chant for Roy Keane as Erling Haaland saunters past. No need to explain why. The sweet sound of pantomime abuse. A cheeky smile briefly plays across Haaland’s face. File that one under ‘Highly Amused’. That’s stored away, then. But at what cost to United? An assist? A goal? Three goals? Anyway, the bear’s been poked, so let’s see how it pans out.
Pre-match postbag. “ETH obviously really fancies Shaw as a centre back and, to be fair, he’s done pretty well there so far. But City’s attack is a far different proposition than any he has faced so far” – Dean Kinsella
“What is going on with Lisandro Martinez? Luke Shaw has filled in admirably at centre back but surely United are a better side with Martinez playing and Shaw at left back. Or did Martinez celebrate the World Cup win so hard that he’s still recovering?” – Jon Collins
“It’s a lovely morning for a Manchester derby, even if the sun is not yet up here in ‘flyover country’. As a Liverpool fan, I am looking forward to a high-scoring draw, with lots of naughty play and many, many cards. Make it happen!” Joe Pearson of Indianapolis
“City are sputtering around with their tiki tacky and not scoring while United are on an upward tack. United win hands down” – Jeff Sachs
… but if City are very much in the title race, surely United are as well, right? Right. We’ve been faffing around with the cups for the last week, so here’s a reminder of where the Manchester rivals currently stand in the Premier League as it nudges towards the halfway mark.
Erik ten Hag’s turn, and he takes the opportunity to eulogise the incoming Wout Weghorst. “He is the type of striker we don’t have in this moment. I have known him a long time and followed him through the leagues and the clubs and everywhere he came, he surprised. He is a goalscorer, definitely, but he is also the type who works for the team, a really good pressing player. He can also play counter attack. He is really effective.”
As for a possible United title challenge? “I don’t dream. I have to develop the team. It’s only January, so don’t talk about that.”
Pep Guardiola, who takes charge of his 500th top-flight league match this lunchtime, talks to BT Sport. “It’s a good scenario to make this milestone! I would prefer it to be at the Etihad, but it’s OK! Old Trafford is OK! We won a lot of games. We had fun, and we’d like to do it again. You cannot win all the time. But you do all you can to try to deserve it. You have to play every game your best. United’s patterns are better. A good run of results. They are active, not just reactive. They have good build-ups. They are a complete team. I have a feeling United is back. I always feel favourite, but you have to prove it, and I have a massive respect to United. Hopefully United has massive respect for us.”
Manchester United make three changes to their last Premier League starting XI. Of the team named for the 3-0 home win over Bournemouth, Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire drop to the bench, while Donny van de Beek is out for the season with a knee injury. Raphael Varane, Tyrrell Malacia and Fred step up.
Manchester City make two changes to the XI that started the 1-0 win at Chelsea. Manuel Akanji and Riyad Mahrez are in; Ilkay Gundogan drops to the bench while John Stones is injured.
Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Shaw, Malacia, Eriksen, Casemiro, Fred, Fernandes, Martial, Rashford.
Subs: Heaton, Lindelof, Maguire, Martinez, McTominay, Mainoo, Antony, Elanga, Garnacho.
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Akanji, Ake, Cancelo, Rodrigo, De Bruyne, Bernardo, Mahrez, Foden, Haaland.
Subs: Ortega Moreno, Phillips, Gundogan, Grealish, Laporte, Alvarez, Gomez, Palmer, Lewis.
Back in October, a mere 104 days ago, City won the Manchester derby 6-3, a scoreline that seriously flattered an abject United. But since having their trousers freshly laundered, pressed and handed to them neatly folded in a high hat, Erik ten Hag’s side have got their act together big time. Of the 18 matches they’ve played in all competitions since that humiliation, 15 have been won, and only one has been lost. They’re currently on an eight-win sequence, boasting a perfect record since domestic football restarted after the World Cup. Tails round Old Trafford way are up.
City haven’t been quite so smooth since their sensational win. In ascending order of uncharacteristic averageness, they’ve lost at home to Brentford, been held at home by Everton, and crashed out of the League Cup at Southampton. They trail league leaders Arsenal by five points, hardly an insurmountable gap for a team of City’s usual brilliance … the only problem being, City aren’t currently playing to their usual brilliant standard. And so, for the first time in quite a while, they go into the derby slightly unsure of themselves, with Pep Guardiola admitting that a repeat of their performance at St Mary’s will spell real trouble against in-form United.
Then again, City were astonishingly good in the first half of their FA Cup tie against Chelsea. A reminder of how devastating they are when they click. And while United are trending upwards, they’re still very much a work in progress, the Ten Hag era still in its infancy, his team benefitting from a reasonably favourable run of fixtures. City, smarting from their midweek defeat and desperate to stay on Arsenal’s tail, could deliver a painful reality check.
All of which is a long-winded way of saying that you can make a case for both sides. So good luck calling it! A second nine-goal affair in a row is unlikely … but wouldn’t it be lovely? Kick off is at 12.30pm GMT. It’s on!