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Five things we learned from the Manchester Derby

Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | September 10, 2016

Manchester Derby bragging rights went back with Man City to the Etihad with a 2-1 victory over Man Utd at Old Trafford, but there was plenty to ponder from that result.

Something had to give with these neighbours both bringing 100 per cent Preimer League records into the fixture, and it did. What can we take forward from this first mega match-up of the season, then?

Coral football experts watched the game on tenterhooks, and here are five things we learned from the Manchester derby…

Mourinho changes counterproductive

With the apparent aim of forcing Man City’s full backs infield, Jose Mourinho tinkered with a winning team and handed Henrikh Mkhitaryan a first Red Devils start.

Another alteration saw Jesse Lingard return after injury down the left, with Juan Mata and Anthony Martial the supporting cast members to make way.

Jose Mourinho changed a winning team and lost his 100 per cent record as Manchester United manager.

Jose Mourinho changed a winning team and lost his 100 per cent record as Manchester United manager.

Only these tweaks from The Special One didn’t have the desired effect. Aleksandar Kolarov punted upfield for Kelechi Ihenacho to flick on for Kevin De Bruyne to grab the opener on the quarter-hour mark.

Mkhitaryan not only failed to limit Kolarov, but played poorly and was especially wasteful on the break. The Armenia international has a lot to do to match his brilliant Borussia Dortmund displays.

Realising his mistake, Mourinho hauled Mkhitaryan and Lingard off at the interval in favour of Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford, who was soon involved. Man Utd are 4/5 to respond by beating Feyenoord in their Europa League group stage opener.

Man Utd should bring Chris Smalling back into the XI

Daley Blind is a versatile footballer, but had a horror show at centre back for the hosts. At fault for both of Man City’s first-half goals, someone with greater aerial ability like Chris Smalling would likely have cut Kolarov’s hopeful hoof-ball that set up the opener out.

Blind also played Kelechi Iheanacho onside to tap in the rebound for the second visiting goal, after De Bruyne hit the post with a low drive 10 minutes before half-time. Usually, the Dutchman reads the game well, but Pep Guardiola’s plans simply bamboozled him.

Smalling is widely considered to be the most-improved of England’s centre back options in the last 12 months, but Mourinho has marginalised him in favour of summer signing Eric Bailly. Can they play together?

Man Utd’s own history suggests that a physical centre back pairing is perfectly possible; just ask current Reading boss Jaap Stam or his Old Trafford partner Ronny Johnsen. Prior to that, Sir Alex Ferguson had Steve Bruce and Gary Pallister.

Selection in the heart of defence, especially with a European away game up next, is certainly something Mourinho must look at.

Shaw passes stern test

Playing in his first big game since returning from a broken leg, England’s bright hope at left back Luke Shaw had to match raw pace for 80 minutes.

England teammates Luke Shaw (left) and Raheem Sterling (right) lined up against one another in the Manchester derby.

England teammates Luke Shaw (left) and Raheem Sterling (right) lined up against one another in the Manchester derby.

First following the rapid and in-form Raheem Sterling around the park, Shaw survived some early jitters to give an excellent account of himself, even when Guardiola changed the threat to unfamiliar debutant Leroy Sane.

You can see what all the hype surrounding Shaw at Southampton was all about following his display here, and the goals conceded by Man Utd should not detract from that.

More of the same from Shaw in the coming weeks will surely see him stake a claim to regain his international place, with Three Lions boss Sam Allardyce already having him train with the squad earlier this month.

Bravo Guardiola, you may have gambled on goalie

You can’t help but wonder if Joe Hart tuned in to the Manchester derby from somewhere in Turin. If so, he would’ve witnessed a very nervous Man City bow from Claudio Bravo – the Chilean keeper signed to replace him by Guardiola.

While there is no denying the medals for club and country the ex-Barcelona stopper has won, he showed a real shakiness at crosses. That allowed Ibrahimovic to bring the Red Devils back into the game during first-half stoppage time.

This incident was the first time Bravo was really called into action and he fluffed his lines. Later escaping punishment for a studs showing lunge on Wayne Rooney after having the temerity to try a Cruyff turn in his own area, there is clear cause for concern.

Guardiola looks to have taken a real gamble on Bravo, who may have all the technical ability in the world, but if he cannot command his area then sending Hart out on loan looks like a grave error of judgement.

It may just have been nerves on Bravo’s part, but his performances will be watched with real interest from now on and don’t be surprised to see opposition teams put plenty of crosses into the Man City box in the coming weeks.

Catalan coach turns away from tiki taka?

Guardiola also altered his tactics for this trip to Old Trafford with great effect. Man City’s opener was literally route one football, not the patient passing and probing build-up play we have seen from his Bayern Munich and Barca vintages.

This may be because the likes of attacking options like goalscorers De Bruyne and Iheanacho, or supporting cast members Nolito, Sane, David Silva and Sterling can all the move ball quickly either through power or vision.

Yet, on the other hand, Guardiola has got rid of players who do not fit into his perceived style; Hart, Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony chief among them. Yaya Toure, meanwhile, remains at the Etihad but frozen out.

Man City looked far fitter tearing around the Old Trafford turf than their hosts and, Bravo’s shaky moments apart, they dealt well with the physical threat posed by Bailly, Paul Pogba and Ibrahimovic.

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