Manchester United knocked Manchester City out of the EFL Cup last night with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford, booking their place in the quarter-finals where they will meet West Ham. It wasn’t a classic, but United fans won’t care, it was a much needed confidence boost and gives them bragging rights over their noisy neighbours. Juan Mata got the only goal of the game early in the second half, with Man City failing to register a shot on target in ninety minutes for the first time in four years.
The opening stages saw lengthy spells of possession with not much attacking intent from either side. The best chance fell to City’s Iheanacho breaking into the opposition box, but Marcos Rojo got back well and timed his block to perfection. The home side didn’t have too much in the way of chances but began to creep into the game towards half time; Mata and Herrera were looking lively in the middle of the park, their freedom being provided by the deep-lying Michael Carrick.
City were unable to build from the back and Mourinho had his men pressing onto both the defence and midfield of their rivals, leaving them to resort to hopeful balls over the top, much to the frustration of Pep Guardiola. This was a solid improvement in tactics by United’s manager, we saw in the league fixture in September that their high pressing left acres of space for De Bruyne and Silva to pull the strings. Although neither of those featured in last night’s game, the Reds did well to squeeze City, making them uncharacteristically sloppy on the ball. Especially Vincent Kompany, who made way for the favourable Aleksandar Kolarov at the break.
The home side were much quicker out of the traps in the second half and very nearly opened the scoring as Pogba saw his shot brilliantly saved onto the post by Willy Caballero, following a lovely interchange between Herrera and Mata. The deadlock was broken however on fifty-four minutes. Zlatan Ibrahimovic did well to hold the ball up on the left flank, dragging Nicolas Otamendi out of position before finding Herrera inside the box. The Spaniard was seemingly bundled to the ground by Fernando, but just as Mike Dean waved away the appeals, Juan Mata calmly stroked the ball into the bottom-left corner of the Stretford End net.
City responded by replacing Leroy Sane and Nolito with Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero, yet still failed to work any sort of opening with United looking comfortable at the back. The Reds shifted to a more defensive set up to see the game out, Marcus Rashford was substituted and Morgan Schneiderlin introduced, the former had run himself into the ground up against the impressive Maffeo.
The game rather fizzled out with the visitors never really providing a threat to David De Gea’s goal. Stoppage time was greeted with chants of “Mourinho’s red and white army”, the fans declaring their support for the boss after a tough last few games. For Manchester City and Pep Guardiola it’s now six games without a win, the longest winless run the manager has ever endured; heaping pressure on Saturday’s trip to West Brom. United march on to the quarter finals of the EFL Cup, but this one was all about getting one over on their city rivals.