Pep Guardiola’s 500th top-flight game as a manager ended in a dramatic Manchester derby defeat as Bruno Fernandes and Marcus Rashford turned the match on its head after Jack Grealish opener’s at Old Trafford, meaning the Red Devils are now only a point behind their bitter rivals, who remain five points behind Premier League leaders Arsenal.
This was one of Manchester United’s best chances of beating their neighbours when Guardiola has been in charge, with the Catalan keen to see a response from his team after their dismal Carabao Cup loss to Southampton in midweek. The game settled into a decent pace from kick-off. Bernando Silva’s loose pass allowed the hosts to mount an attack, but compatriot Fernandes dragged his effort wide.
Fred was doing a sterling job of sticking to Kevin De Bruyne, and the Belgian, who hadn’t got a PL goal or assist since 29 October before this match, was struggling to influence proceedings early on. Erling Haaland’s first shot in anger from the edge of the area was blocked on 24 minutes, before Ederson had a heart-in-mouth moment as he charged out to meet Rashford and the striker rounded the Brazilian, only for Manuel Akanji to intervene on the line.
Rashford was then put through again, but Ederson smothered effectively as the 25-year-old bore down on goal.
However, the England international was soon in pain after appearing to pull up injured, but soldiered on until the break. Rashford was able to continue at the start of the second period, but Anthony Martial was instead taken off, Antony taking the Frenchman’s place.
On 54 minutes, De Bruyne was able to stretch his legs and hang up a cross for Silva, but the Portugal international’s header back across goal was cut out vitally by Raphaël Varane. The creator supreme couldn’t be tied down though, and another hanging ball into the danger area was powered home by Grealish.
Erik ten Hag threw on 18-year-old Alejandro Garnacho in an attempt to turn the tide, and United equalised 12 minutes from the end of normal time when Casemiro’s inch-perfect through-ball was swept home by Fernandes. The effort was initially ruled out because it was thought that Rashford, in an offside position, had touched the ball.
However, after referee Stuart Attwell spoke to assistant Darren Cann, the goal was given.
And United stunningly completed the comeback when Fernandes instigated a breakaway with a superb reverse pass to Garnacho, who scampered forward and had a cross blocked by Akanji, but the 18-year-old regained possession and spun Nathan Aké to produce a fizzing cross that Rashford tucked between Ederson’s legs to send the home fans berserk.
That crushing defeat means City must hope that Arsenal fall to defeat in Sunday’s north London derby. A victory for the Gunners however would put Mikel Arteta’s men eight points clear.