Pep Guardiola faced Jose Mourinho for the second time this season, as Manchester City took on Manchester United in the EFL Cup.
Jose Mourinho was keen to gain some respect from the Manchester United fans following his side’s embarrassing 4-0 defeat away to his former club, Chelsea. And what better way to do so by pulling one over Manchester City?
Mourinho named a standard Manchester United eleven, although he was without summer signing Eric Bailly for the first time this season. Bailly, who has been a rock at the back for Manchester United throughout the season, was completely ripped apart by Chelsea’s defence last Sunday, and even sustained a knee injury which could keep him out for the rest of the calendar year.
Jose Mourinho started David De Gea in goal, a clear sign he was determined to win the match, given that he usually plays Sergio Romero in the low-profile matches.
United’s defence line consisted of Antonio Valencia, Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo, and Luke Shaw. Both of Manchester United’s centre backs tonight are usually deployed as left backs, however, they are both able to play as centre-backs.
Michael Carrick began alongside Ander Herrera as United’s central defensive midfielders, with Carrick being awarded the captain’s armband.
Zlatan Ibrahimović was Manchester United’s lone striker on the night, despite a recent dry streak. Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata were named as Manchester United’s wingers, while Paul Pogba began, once again, in a No. 10 position.
Pep Guardiola named a Manchester City side scattered with young and experienced players. Sergio Aguero started on the bench, as Iheanacho was started in strike.
The Citizens were hoping to end their 5 game winless streak against Manchester United, although it has now stretched to 6 matches.
Juan Mata scored the only goal of the match in the 54th minute, to earn Manchester United a spot in the EFL quarter-final. Zlatan played the ball across the goalkeeper after outsmarting Otamendi. The ball went past Ander Herrera, who defended it from his man before Mata swept in with a clinical finish.
Here are the 4 things we learned as Manchester United knocked out their noisy neighbours:
- Manchester United are sloppy without Eric Bailly
Eric Bailly signed for Manchester United during the summer, and has since been a prominent name in Mourinho’s defensive back line.
But due to his recent injury, Jose started Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo at the heart of Manchester United’s defence against United’s archrivals.
Daley Blind was sloppy at times, almost letting Iheanacho score in the opening minutes. But in the end, they did manage to retain a clean sheet.
However, this should come as call for Mourinho to dip his hand in the transfer market for another centre-back.
Earlier this summer, Manchester United were linked with players like Jose Fonte and Leonardo Bonucci, although a move for another defender besides Bailly never materialised.
Mourinho may need to re-kindle his interest in these two defenders in the upcoming window to help Manchester United pull through the rest of the season.
Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly are the only two natural center-backs in the first-team squad at the moment, and it is clear that another defender will help the side achieve consistent results.
Bailly is expected to be back by the end of the year, however, he will miss several crucial matches for Manchester United in the meantime.
- Zlatan needs some time to rest
The Giant Swede experienced a sluggish first half for Manchester United tonight. His lacklustre first half performance prompted Jamie Carragher to label it as the ‘worst performance of his career.’
Zlatan managed to pick it up in the second half, even providing the assist for Juan Mata’s winner.
However, he did miss a few opportunities, and failed to get a free-kick on target.
The 35-year-old is Manchester United’s only main striker at the moment, as Jose Mourinho continues Wayne Rooney’s omission from the first-team squad.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford can also play as strikers, but Mourinho would much rather deploy them on the wings, given their pace and agility.
Perhaps Jose Mourinho should consider splashing out for a striker during the winter, just as a reliable back-up for Zlatan.
At the moment, United are not linked with a move for any attacker, but more news will follow as the window approaches.
- Juan Mata is here to stay
The Spanish midfielder has proved himself to Jose Mourinho this season, and it seems like he will continue his stay in Manchester.
Jose Mourinho was expected to offload the 28-year-old this summer, however, he decided to give Mata a fighting chance, and it is clear that the Spaniard has taken his chance wisely.
The Spanish International scored the only goal of the night to earn Manchester United a spot in the EFL quarter-finals, and even won the man of the match award.
Mata has made 11 appearances for Manchester United so far this season, scoring 3 goals.
His presence in the first-team squad clearly makes a big difference, however, Mourinho could easily opt for Henrikh Mkhitaryan over the Spaniard in the right wing role.
With Paul Pogba occupying the No 10 role, there might be a fight for a first team spot between Mata and Mkhitaryan.
- Henrikh Mkhitaryan misses out… again
Jose Mourinho hasn’t played the Armenian since Manchester United’s derby defeat on the 10th of September, and his continuous omission from the squad has puzzled the minds of many Manchester United fans.
The Armenian was injured with his national side during the September International break, but Mourinho still started the 27-year-old during the Derby which followed a few days later, and the midfielder hasn’t featured in another match since.
However, Mkhitaryan was believed to have been fit for Manchester United’s last 4 matches, although Mourinho is still stubborn on not starting the player.
Many believe that the Portuguese manager is trying to allow the player to adapt to the Premier League’s physicality, which means we might not see him for the rest of the month.
Mkhitaryan has so far only made 5 appearances for United this season, after making a total of 51 last season with Dortmund. His impressive form last season earned him the Bundesliga’s Player of the Season award, and even prompted Jose Mourinho to dish out £27 million for his services.