Mourinho's team selection under fire
United pay price for poor start as Mourinho's team selection comes under scrutiny
MAN UNITED 1
(Zlatan Ibrahimovic 42)
MAN CITY 2
(Kevin de Bruyne 15, Kelechi Iheanacho 36)
The £565 million ($1.02 billion) match became more about minds than it was money.
It was a Manchester Derby which will go down as a classic but more due to the flaws in the tactical blueprints of the previously infallible Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.
So often the architect of his own downfall, in various games and at numerous clubs, the Manchester United manager will be under no illusions that he has again been hoisted by his own petard.
For all the fightback after a rousing end to the first half, Mourinho lost the battle of wills with his long-standing adversary before the game had even kicked off, simply by trying, and failing, to outwit him.
Opting for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard, ahead of Anthony Martial and Juan Mata, was designed to fully exploit Manchester City's fullbacks.
To say it backfired would be an understatement; Guardiola never even allowed it the time to take effect.
Tellingly, with United lacking both a game plan and a big-game mindset, the pair were both hooked immediately after the half-time interval.
Resisting temptation to start Marcus Rashford, in-form for both club and country, also came back to haunt Mourinho.
Fixating on how to nullify Guardiola rather than playing to his and United's strengths was only ever going to backfire, and has done regularly during their rivalry.
Had Rashford, who had shown more in his first minute of action than Lingard offered during an ineffectual 45 minutes, or even Martial been afforded the chance to take on City's backline, the early deficit may have been consigned to fiction rather than an ugly, cold fact.
Guardiola knows that it is futile even trying to compete with Mourinho in his own domain ,yet brazenly did so anyway.
For over half an hour yesterday, he and his players enjoyed an unabridged freedom of Old Trafford.
He was the chief, the main man - as he had once infamously declared of his opposite number during their days of intense feuding at the pinnacle of European football.
A repeat of the 5-0 thrashing administered to Mourinho's Real Madrid in November 2010 appeared on the cards.
Several players were in their element - David Silva had a freedom last found on the Old Trafford turf during City's emphatic six-goal hammering in 2011 while Kevin de Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho more than cushioned the blow of Sergio Aguero's absence.
In de Bruyne, Guardiola possesses a player arguably as influential for City as the suspended Argentinian, if not more so.
His 15th-minute strike chalked up involvement in a combined 32nd goal from 46 games since moving to the Etihad Stadium.
Up against the manager who deemed him incapable of making the grade at Chelsea, the Belgium international reminded Mourinho that his quality remains permanent - deployed in any position across City's front-line, he remains a genuine tour de force.
Iheanacho, too, has shown that he also possesses a personal Midas touch after being involved in three goals in as many of his previous English Premier League matches.
Save for a requiem mass, City had left United all but dead and buried before half-time.
The hosts' shock revival came, typically from the power of a cross.
Joe Hart could be forgiven for beating down the walls in frustration after witnessing Claudio Bravo's error-prone showing which gifted United an undeserved lifeline.
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba (right) also came close to beating City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. PHOTO: AFP
Guardiola's decision to exile the England goalkeeper to Torino on a season-long loan continues to spark bewilderment.
Hart may not be ingrained with City's current philosophy but a player of his experience would not have been as reckless in possession.
Though an excellent distributor with his feet, Bravo had enjoyed a hands-free preparation to proceedings which returned to haunt him with a fatal blunder which gifted United a shock lifeline and almost an equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Lunging at Wayne Rooney in a bid to clear his lines after gifting possession to the United captain could have ended a maiden Derby outing in further ignominy.
Guardiola may not have factored the Chilean's outgoing on-field persona, almost fatally when flapping at a ball in the final minute of stoppage time, currently threatens to be the greatest undoing of his and City's best-laid plans this season.
They were lucky this time, in a first stern test of the new EPL campaign - others are unlikely to be as profligate as Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic ultimately proved.
"I had two or three players in the first half that, if i know what is going to happen, i don’t play them. But this is football and sometimes players disappoint managers. it’s my fault because i’m the manager and it’s always my fault because it’s my choice.
— Man United manager Jose Mourinho
MOURINHO V GUARDIOLA
Jose Mourinho (left) and Pep Guardiola (right) went head to head for the first time in English football. Press Association Sport looks at how the two men fared during the match.
PRE-MATCH AND POST-MATCH
In the final seconds before kick-off, there was a warm-looking embrace between as they clasped hands and briefly hugged, with Mourinho at least appearing to be smiling.
There was then a similar touchline meeting at the final whistle. Mourinho would have been in a miserable mood at that point, but both he and Guardiola gave the impression of harmony to the cameras.
Both managers - Guardiola in particular - were animated at times in the technical area, although not in any way towards each other.
The most eye-catching moment occurred in the first half when Guardiola found himself in a minor skirmish - with Wayne Rooney.
The City boss grabbed the ball as it went out of play and Rooney was unhappy Guardiola did not immediately hand it over, as a brief struggle ensued (below).
With City outplaying United in the first half with their aesthetically pleasing brand of football, it looked very much like the idealist Guardiola had once again got the better of the pragmatist Mourinho.
United then looked more threatening in the second half, with Marcus Rashford and Ander Herrera on for the ineffective Jesse Lingard and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. But it was Guardiola's methods which proved victorious in the end.