Sunday 8 March 2020 8:01 pm

Manchester United 2, Manchester City 0: Hungry Reds punish Ederson errors

All but mathematically unable to catch Liverpool and with little prospect of being pipped by a stuttering Leicester, Premier League games must currently feel like curiously pointless tasks for Manchester City.

Win, lose or draw, City are highly likely to come second in the table and are almost certain to finish in the top four, ensuring another year of Champions League football – possible bans notwithstanding.

As such, it should be no surprise if Pep Guardiola’s appear to be missing that oft-talked about extra one or two per cent – even in a derby – that can make all the difference in elite sport.

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Manchester United, on the other hand, have it all to play for.

They lie fifth, in striking distance of Chelsea, who currently occupy the last Champions League place, but have six teams within six points behind them, lying in wait should they make any slip-ups.

When City faced their bitter local rivals at Old Trafford on Sunday it was clear to see which team had more at stake.

Man for man, City are the better team, have the better squad and the better manager. But here United simply applied themselves better.

Bruno Fernandes set the tone with his pressing from the No10 position, chasing down Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi as Anthony Martial and Daniel James played as split strikers.

Anthony Martial
Martial scored United’s opening goal from a quick Bruno Fernandes free-kick

It was visible in the aggression of Martial, who won a challenge with Fernandinho and drew a save from Ederson moments before volleying United in front from Fernandes’ quickly taken chipped free-kick.

So, too, in the unfailing focus of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the clear winner of his duel with Raheem Sterling, and in the inexhaustible box-to-box running of Fred.

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City, meanwhile, looked a pale shadow of their brilliant best; neat, tidy, at times even incisive yet lacking killer instinct.

Without Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden was given the chance to build on his stellar Carabao Cup final display against Aston Villa, but the 18-year-old was virtually anonymous.

Sterling failed to convert his best opening, on the stretch from substitute Riyad Mahrez’s early right-wing cross, as United’s five-man defence smothered City’s attempts to in behind.

Ederson was at fault for both of United’s goals

At the back they were suspect, especially in the channel between a jittery Otamendi and Oleksandr Zinchenko, although it was Ederson at fault for both goals.

The Brazil No1 let Martial’s volley squirm under him for the first and then, six minutes into injury time, launched a throw straight to Scott McTominay, who gleefully fired back into an unguarded net.

In his previous job, Guardiola’s failure to convert Bayern Munich’s domestic excellence into European glory led to suggestions that their Bundesliga dominance was hurting them.

Winning the German title with such ease and so early robbed them of meaningful games from around March onwards, leading to undercooked performances in the Champions League – or so it went.

City are certainly still capable of turning it on, as Aston Villa last week and Real Madrid a few days prior can attest, but a procession of meaningless fixtures is not ideal preparation for the remaining tests that do matter.