Manchester United and Manchester City have played out a hard fought 0-0 draw in the derby at Old Trafford this afternoon.
There was a quiet start as both teams felt their way into the clash. Raheem Sterling found himself in space in United’s box early on but his shot was well blocked by Phil Jones.
Good defending from Marcos Rojo then shut down Yaya Toure as the Ivorian threatened on the counter-attack. Toure was proving to be a nuisance for United and his header just before half time flew narrowly wide of the post.
United quickened the tempo after the break, with Ander Herrera and Chris Smalling both coming close for the home side. Juan Mata then looked like he was through after Smalling cleared but Joe Hart was quick off his line to smother the danger. The game quietened down after that before the best chance of the game fell to substitute Jesse Lingard, who hit the crossbar with a looping effort. Smalling was denied by Hart late on but neither side could find a winner, meaning the game ended in a goalless draw.
Nervy but strong start
The Manchester derby is among the most important fixtures of the season for United supporters and it was clear that the hosts didn’t want to commit bodies forward too early at Old Trafford. As a result, opportunities were few and far between as United elected to keep hold of the ball rather than take risks.
Although the opening period did not provide much in the way of excitement, it was refreshing to see United start in a positive manner. All too often this season, van Gaal’s side have been sluggish early on. Against City, they needed a good opening period and they did just that.
The Frenchman has impressed as of late alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in the middle of the park for United and he continued his solid form against City.
While Schneiderlin does not uproot any trees or do anything too flashy for his side, his work in midfield provides an invaluable platform for his teammates to build on. After so many years of midfield mediocrity at United, Schneiderlin’s composure on the ball is wonderful to see.
Rojo has had mixed fortunes for United so far this term but he put in an impressive showing against City.
The Argentine kept Kevin de Bruyne quiet with some perfectly timed tackles and the presence of mind he showed to see off Toure as he closed in on United’s goal during the first half was superb. At the other end of the pitch, Rojo’s crossing was excellent, although there wasn’t anybody there to get on the end of it the majority of the time. A top performance from him.
Mata returned to the starting XI after being rested for the CSKA Moscow draw this week but the Spaniard was poor at Old Trafford.
Mata lost the ball far too often and never really got going in an attacking sense. Van Gaal eventually decided he had seen enough and he replaced Mata with Lingard after 67 minutes played. Mata would have been disappointed with his display as he has otherwise been superb for United this season. However, there is no doubt that he will find his form again.
While Wayne Rooney struggled to make an impact against City, Martial’s lovely footwork saw him get past a number of opposition defenders time and time again.
The Frenchman played on the left against City and you got the sense that he was wasted out on the wing. After all, we saw in the games against Southampton and Liverpool how dangerous Martial can be. His lively and direct approach might have produced similar results in a central role against City but van Gaal instead chose to persist with Rooney. It is a problem for United and one that will need solving soon.