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EFL Cup: The Blue Moon Rises Over Old Trafford

Manchester United 1-3 Manchester City

Manchester City took a firm hold over their EFL Cup semi-final clash with Manchester United tonight thanks to a 3-1 win in the first leg at Old Trafford.

The EFL Cup 2020 results this season hold more importance than most particularly for the two Manchester clubs. United fans would do anything for a trophy at the moment with Champions League football looking hard to attain, while the Sky Blues’ inconsistency in the league has made the cup competitions Pep Guardiola’s priority.

And he has every chance of reaching the first final of the season after his side blew the Red Devils away in a scintillating first half display, going into half time with a 0-3 lead. Marcus Rashford pulled one back for the Red Devils but now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team has a mountain to climb.

Bragging rights are so important in this city. And while the rivalry between the two teams is generally in good spirits, the Old Trafford club was at pains to say that any City fans found in the home end would be ejected.

If there were any Sky Blues in the wrong end they would have spent the first half sitting on their hands!

 

Highlights of the game

After the first ten minutes of the game, no one inside Old Trafford could have suspected what was to come.

Manchester City looked a little ponderous at the back trying to clear a cross from Daniel James, and Benjamin Mendy in particular was careless with the ball. And the Red Devils came close after a wonderful move involving Marcus Rashford and James, but Fernandinho was on hand to clear.

Then everything changed.

Kyle Walker was played in down the right and he pulled the ball back to Bernardo Silva. The Portuguese striker evaded Fred before hitting an absolute screamer beyond David de Gea and into the top corner. What a strike that was!

Riyad Mahrez tried to emulate Silva but his effort was blocked and the Sky Blues began to dominate.

And Mahrez did get his goal on 33 minutes to double City’s lead. While the opening goal was a thing of beauty, the second was a moment of horror for the United defence.

Lindelof headed out weekly to Silva who drove in on goal before sliding the ball through to Mahrez who rounded de Gea to finish with ease. It was clinical from City but Victor Lindelof could have some nightmares about his part in the goal.

The third was another shocker for United, but more bad luck than judgement. After a rapid City break, Kevin de Bruyne fired a shot which was parried by de Gea but the ball hit the hapless Andreas Pereira and bounced into the net.

The United fans came to Old Trafford full of hope but by half time that had pretty much disappeared.

For the first 20 minutes of the second half, the Sky Blues seemed to be happy to settle for three while United struggled to put together any sort of attack.

Marcus Rashford scores Manchester United's first goal against Man City during their EFL Cup semi-final clash
Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring a goal for Manchester United against rivals Manchester City in their EFL Cup semi-final first leg clash

But then, just after de Gea had saved a Mahrez effort, the Red Devils had a glimmer of hope. A mix-up between de Bruyne and Rodri let Mason Greenwood in and he passed to the in-form Rashford who raced away from Nicolas Otamendi and stroked the ball just inside the left hand post.

With two minutes remaining, Claudio Bravo made a good save to deny Rashford a second, but on the whole this was a smooth as silk performance by the Sky Blues.

 

Key statistics

Manchester City have now won four of the last five meetings between these two teams and are on a four match winning run, and inflicted the first home defeat on the Red Devils in 14 games.

Marcus Rashford’s late goal has given United a glimmer of hope and it was his fourth in this competition.

 

What’s next?

In the other semi-final Leicester City are highly fancied to see off Aston Villa and the first leg of that all-Midlands tie kicks off tomorrow night.

The Premier League table makes slightly better reading for the Red Devils than it does the Sky Blues. Only two places separate the two clubs. Manchester City are in third place, a full 14 points behind Liverpool having played a game more while United are in fifth but with Spurs and now Arsenal breathing down their necks.

Solskjaer’s team hosts bottom club Norwich City next, and that should mean another three points to erase the memory of defeat to Arsenal last time out. And then there is an FA Cup replay at home to Wolves to contend with.

Meanwhile, the Sky Blues are away to struggling Aston Villa before hosting Roy Hodgson’s Crystal Palace the following Saturday.

 

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