Manchester City claimed their fourth consecutive Manchester Derby win as they overcame United by a single goal to nil at the Etihad Stadium yesterday afternoon.
Neil Sherwin picks out some of the main talking points from the game.
Sergio Aguero is the best striker in the Premier League
With Luis Suarez no longer a factor, there is one less name to juggle in the conversation around who is the most lethal striker in the English top flight.
Now that his injury woes look to be behind him, Sergio Aguero is in splendid form and once against came up trumps in the derby with an excellent left foot finish in the 63rd minute.
Chelsea fans will point to the Diego Costa’s early season showing as a reason for him to sit above Aguero but it is the Argentine who now leads the Premier League goal scoring charts with ten goals to his name.
A lot of it comes down to attitude and Aguero’s is flawless; his very public display of displeasure when substituted late on is what you want to see from a player at the top of his game.
Still only 26, Aguero may still be a few years from his peak, and that he could become even better is both exciting and frightening at the same time.
Aguero drifting deep into space – nightmare for defenders. Does it better than anyone in PL. Even Diego Costa.
— Kristian Jack (@KristianJack) November 2, 2014
If Michael Oliver is one of the top referees then we have a big problem
Michael Oliver had a shocker, didn’t he? The 29-year-old, in charge of his second Manchester Derby, is obviously seen as one of the Premier League’s top officials but his performance at the Etihad Stadium left a lot to be desired.
While it’s very easy to criticise referees with the benefit of instant replays from various different angles, City were arguably denied three penalties for two fouls on Sergio Aguero and one on Yaya Toure.
Indeed, United defender Marcos Rojo could also have been sent off had Oliver whistled for a foul on Toure given it was the denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity.
It wasn’t just the penalty incidents that left people scratching their heads either; Gael Clichy managed to avoid a booking for cleaning up Adnan Januzaj on the United right in the first half, with Pablo Zabaleta also got away with one when he took out Robin van Persie on the opposite side of the pitch.
Then of course there was the Joe Hart incident when he went head-to-head with Oliver in response to Daley Blind, already on a yellow card, kicking the ball away after a free kick had been awarded to City.
Credit where it’s due as Oliver managed to get one big decision correct when he dismissed Chris Smalling for two yellow cards, the first of which was completely brainless for obstructing Joe Hart as the goalkeeper attempted to kick the ball up field.
Most fans just want to see some consistent refereeing and that was severely lacking from Oliver.
The penalty against Yaya was not only a penalty but also a sending off. There were two others against Sergio.
– Manuel Pellegrini
United’s resilience with ten men gives cause for optimism
Down a goal and a man away to the current Premier League Champions, you would have been forgiven for expecting the floodgates to open as United pressed forward in search of a way back into the contest.
While City didn’t help themselves by sitting deeper and going into a state of panic, United took the game to them and ensured that the final margin was a lot closer than it could have been.
Indeed, they came close to snatching a point last on as Joe Hart denied Angel Di Maria with a superb save low down to his right, while Marouane Fellaini made a complete mess of a header from close range.
They probably could have caused even more problems were it not for some horrendously delivered corners from Di Maria, with at least three failing to beat the first man.
Wayne Rooney, on his return to the team after a three match suspension, huffed and puffed throughout but almost scored one of the great derby goals as he burst through from midfield and nutmegged Vincent Kompany before getting snuffed out in the penalty area.
It’s that sort of character that seemed to be missing under David Moyes and, if nothing else, it looks like the players are showing a lot more will to win under Van Gaal.
The red card had an influence on the game but, despite being 10 men against 11, we played better in the second half than the first because of willpower of this team.
– Louis van Gaal
Yaya Toure showed more in one game than he has all season so far
After scoring more than 20 goals in all competitions last season, Yaya Toure’s post-World Cup slump has been a real cause for concern, but he wasn’t far off his best yesterday.
The Ivorian saw more of the ball than any other player on the park, completing 67 of his 72 passes (93%), and it was from his superb ball in behind the United defence that Gael Clichy crossed for the match winning goal.
It was very much a case of Toure growing into the game, and he benefitted from the extra space once Smalling had been sent off, but we saw evidence of the Toure of old in the second half with a couple of lung bursting runs from his own half.
A goal would have capped the performance nicely and he was just inches away from getting one with a shot that curled just wide of the right hand post following a delightful turn that left McNair for dead.
Toure was given the Barclay’s Man of the Match award and while that may have been going a bit far, some praise for his performance is certainly merited.
Defensive frailties and lack of durability will continue to cost United
United finished the game with a back four of winger Antonio Valencia, central midfielder Michael Carrick and 19-year-olds Luke Shaw and Paddy McNair.
Chris Smalling will now serve a ban for his red card, while Marcos Rojo dislocated a shoulder and joins Johnny Evans, Phil Jones and Rafael on the treatment table.
Replacing Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra was always going to be a difficult task without a bad run of injuries thrown into the mix, and for all the attacking threats that they pose, United may find that the lack of a stable defence holds them back for the foreseeable future.
There has been plenty of talk lately about the club signing Radamel Falcao, also currently injured, on a permanent deal next summer but the priority should be shoring up that back four as early as the January transfer window.