Manchester City post second full performance in four days

The last time Manchester United met Manchester City at Old Trafford it was an absolute loss on a Saturday night.

We had all spent many tedious hours during the lockdown, but it was really taking the mickey.

Even Roy Keane – usually so shy and quiet when it comes to expressing his opinion – was furious.

The former Manchester United midfielder blasted the lack of yellow cards and the presence of hugs (not a COVID-related concern, he was also in disbelief at the shared smile and chatter).

It was a game that embodied locking: flat, mundane, monotonous.

United had just come out of their disappointing Champions League elimination, while City struggled to consistently hit their irresistible form from previous campaigns.

Fast forward less than a month and rivals Manchester are suddenly two of the fit teams in the Premier League, and they served up a very entertaining 90 minutes in the Carabao Cup semi-final. It was end to end, intense and high quality.

John stones
City regained their best in victory over United | Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

City emerged victorious thanks to goals from John Stones and Fernandinho and were well worth their place in the April final. For the second time in four days, Pep Guardiola’s team were absolutely exceptional.

On Sunday, City were back at their best, effervescent, as they sent Chelsea confidently in a ruthless 34 minutes into the first half.

United fought more on Wednesday night, but ultimately succumbed to City’s class.

Ruben Dias and Stones’ central defensive partnership was so solid that United were largely limited to distance half chances. The duo have conceded just one goal in eight starts together – Dias bringing defensive maturity well above his 23-year-old, and Stones playing with real newfound self-confidence.

Building on that strong defensive base, City began to return to their exciting and creative attacking. Phil Foden, having seen his playing time restricted slightly more than one would expect this season given his form after lockdown and the departure of David Silva this summer, continued his impressive performance at Chelsea with a another eye-catching performance.

The way the City Academy product can see the sharpest angles and pick the passes is a joy to watch. Everything is so crisp and crisp – his low cross to find Ilkay Gundogan’s marginal offside in the opening five minutes epitomizes his keen eye for a pass and a perfect delivery to match.

The imperious Kevin de Bruyne has led City forward time and time again. When he walked forward with the ball you were always convinced that he would pick the right pass, make the right choice and cause problems for United.

An infuriating inconsistency has been a telling theme for the majority of Premier League sides this season – understandable given the crowded fixture schedule and the unique pandemic circumstances. For City, having achieved two full performances in the space of four days is a true declaration of intent on Guardiola’s part.