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A double from Kevin De Bruyne. A double from Riyad Mahrez. The double achieved by City against United during the Manchester derbies this season.
Just further confirmation of the divergent paths taken by these former Premier League rivals.
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Sunday’s 4-1 win restored City’s six-point lead over Liverpool in their quest to defend the title and lift the trophy for the sixth time in a decade.
And where is United? Languishing 22 points behind City and now even more in fourth and last place in the Champions League.
“They showed what kind of top quality squad they have,” said United caretaker manager Ralf Rangnick.
He was outclassed at home and lost 2-0 to City in the derby in November, prompting the dismissal of Ole Gunnar Solskjær. The final blow was lost to Watford – the side who were beaten 3-2 in Sunday’s other game which saw Arsenal dislodge United from fourth place.
“I didn’t really expect Arsenal to lose at Watford,” Rangnick said. “So for us it’s clear, if we still want to have a chance of finishing fourth at the end of the season, we can hardly let go of points, and we also know that in these 10 games that we have to play, there are a few other tough ones so let’s take it game by game.
“For us it is important to continue to develop the team, which we have done in the last two months.”
But United have been a work in progress since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013 after the last Premier League title win.
Sunday’s game produced just City’s second home win in the league in seven attempts. But while United and City have both spent around $1 billion on transfers over the past decade, Manchester’s blue half are the side that regularly collect trophies. United have been enduring a five-year title drought since winning the Europa League in 2017 that can only be ended by winning the Champions League this season.
The European Cup is City’s priority trophy after losing last season’s final to Chelsea, although it will be nice to win the Premier League again.
United had to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw through injury or illness on Sunday. That doesn’t fully account for United’s inefficiency or Harry Maguire’s sensitivity in defence.
It took City just five minutes to get past. De Bruyne connected with Bernardo Silva’s reduction and fired through the legs of Maguire and past goalkeeper David De Gea.
There was a glimmer of hope when Paul Pogba took out Jadon Sancho and the former City player took on Kyle Walker before folding the ball into the net in the 22nd minute.
City took just six minutes to regain the lead. The move started with a moment of dazzling individual brilliance from Phil Foden sending the ball over Victor Lindelof. While the shot was parried by De Gea, Bernardo Silva’s follow-up shot was only partially blocked by Maguire before United defender Alex Telles managed to kick the ball in for De Bruyne to score again.
“They tried to rush us and they played well in the first half,” said De Bruyne. “In the second half we found more chances.”
It was Mahrez’s turn to contribute the second-half goals at the Etihad Stadium – starting with an assist from De Bruyne.
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Mahrez connected with a corner from the Belgian playmaker with a half-volley that deflected Maguire slightly before landing in the net in the 68th.
There was initially an offside reprieve for United in the 90th but then the VAR review allowed Mahrez’s strike to count, adding to United’s misery.
“If the second half is not our best, I don’t know what to do, honestly,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “I’m such a demanding man, but I know my limits and I know the limits of the players and the second half in all terms (it was excellent).”
Maguire was devastated as he tried to analyze what was wrong.
“When we had the ball,” Maguire said. “We just gave it back to them way too cheaply, way too easily, we weren’t clean enough with our passing. And in the times when we had chances to hurt them, we weren’t clinical enough, we We weren’t clean enough with passing and moments of transition in the game, especially in the second half.”
United entered the pitch knowing that Arsenal had already won at Vicarage Road and were fourth.
A reduction from Bukayo Saka allowed Martin Odegaard to get into the opener in the fifth minute. Although Watford equalized thanks to an acrobatic volley from Cucho Hernandez, Saka regained the advantage in the 30th minute after a one-two with Alexandre Lacazette. Gabriel Martinelli’s curling shot early in the second half extended the lead for Arsenal, who suffered a nervous end after Moussa Sissoko’s goal in the 87th, but Watford could not make their comeback and remain penultimate in the standings.