Manchester City got the better of their city rivals as they overcame Manchester United 4-1 in a ding-dong battle at the Etihad Stadium.
A brace from Kevin de Bruyne was separated by a Jadon Sancho equaliser, before Riyad Mahrez wrapped up the three points with a delightful brace as Pep Guardiola gave Ralf Rangnick a sour first taste of a Manchester derby.
In a game where both sides had key absentees – Ruben Dias for the hosts and Cristiano Ronaldo, Edinson Cavani, Raphael Varane and Luke Shaw for the Red Devils – both sides showed attacking intent where it mattered to let the encounter ebb and flow with great fervour.
‘Captain Fantastic’ De Bruyne opened the scoring on merely five minutes, slotting home after excellent work down the left by Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish, in what would become a constant thorn in the side of United. and more pertinently, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Victor Lindelof.
Sancho curled United level against his former club after an excellent break from the visitors, working the ball through Anthony Elanga, Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes before the £73 million man finished with great aplomb beyond Ederson.
Phil Foden saw a header clip the top of the bar two minutes before De Bruyne doubled his money, finishing off a melee in the box that originated yet again from the left-hand side, as Foden’s flick and volley was saved brilliantly in the interim by David de Gea, Grealish’s follow-up was blocked, and the Belgian was on hand to slide home a sumptuous second.
It would get even better for the Sky Blues as their right-hand man Mahrez struck on 68 minutes with a gorgeous goal, De Bruyne the creator this time, clipping to the edge of the area for the Algerian to almost pass it home, via a deflection off Harry Maguire.
Mahrez got his second of the day as VAR confirmed, compounding De Gea’s misery, as the Spaniard hurt himself when clearing his lines, and after initially disallowing the goal for a flag, the Algerian had cause to celebrate again as he made it four.
United were brave in their approach, especially in the first half: a 4-2-2-2 shape that was fluid and transitioned into a 4-2-3-1 saw Pogba play as a central striker at times as his and Fernandes’ “deep runs”, as Guardiola puts it, gave the league leaders something to think about, but they were much the inferior side after the break. City looked revitalised, with Grealish and De Bruyne at the fore of it.
Another win for the crafty Catalan, and United’s second half collapse will prove a major concern again for Rangnick as United lost ground in their top four race.
TALKING POINT – UNITED AUDACIOUS, CITY AWESOME
Rangnick lined up without a recognised striker in the absence of Cavani and Ronaldo, as Pogba and Fernandes made up a deep-lying front two that initially caused the champions problems, but faded as they figured out the gameplan as the match wore on.
The visitors held a high defensive line against all others’ beliefs, and they showed courage in their off-the-ball approach in the early exchanges, going after the home side in the classic Rangnick gegenpressing manner.
But that would come to no avail: City were too good, De Bruyne too clinical, as they went in at the break ahead, and they started poorly in the second half, allowing the Citizens all the time in the world as they dropped deeper, eventually allowing Mahrez to help himself to a third, and then a fourth.
City: Ederson 6, Walker 7, Stones 6, Laporte 6, Cancelo 7, Rodri 6, Silva 7, De Bruyne 9*, Foden 7, Grealish 8, Mahrez 8. Subs: Gundogan 6.
United: De Gea 6, W-Bissaka 5, Lindelof 5, Maguire 5, Telles 5, Fred 4, McTominay 5, Pogba 7, Elanga 6, Fernandes 6, Sancho 7. Subs: Rashford 6, Lingard 6.
MAN OF THE MATCH – KEVIN DE BRUYNE, MANCHESTER CITY
The world-class playmaker notched a fully-deserved brace in a complete performance.
He drove through midfield with guile and quality, and his vision and interplay in the engine room were exemplary.
His link-up with Bernardo Silva, Grealish and Foden proved impossible for United to foil, and as such, the brilliant Belgian was at the fore of everything good that Guardiola’s side did.
What a player.
7′: GOALLL!!! It’s all too easy, as City’s first real spell of possession and first real attack is converted by Kevin de Bruyne , after good work down the left by Bernardo Silva and Grealish, and the pull-back comes all the way through for the brilliant Belgian to sweep home.
22′: GOALLL!!! It’s Jadon Sancho! Brilliant break, through Elanga, Pogba and Fernandes, and the Portuguese’s false overlap means that Sancho can shift onto his right and curl home for 1-1!
25′: OFF THE BAR! An improvised Foden header hits the top of the bar as Cancelo’s cross comes in!
28′: GOALLL!!! 2-1, it’s De Bruyne at the double! A melee in the area ensues, and it’s rammed home by the Belgian after a great initial flick and volley from Foden, and De Bruyne crashes home the ricochet after the pinball.
68′: GOALLL!!! It’s three! Riyad Mahrez, came from deep, meeting the delivery deliciously, and it’s a class finish to pass it from range into the far corner. Beautifully done, game done and dusted.
90′: NO GOAL! De Gea injured himself after a kick and City come at him, Mahrez fires it beyond him, but the assistant on the far side flags. // GOALLL!!! It’s given! Mahrez has his second, and makes it four!