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Five things we learned from the Manchester derby

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Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku (R) hits a header past Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes (L) during the International Champions Cup soccer match at NRG Stadium on July 20, 2017 in Houston, Texas. Manchester United won 2-0. / AFP PHOTO / AARON M. SPRECHER

The first Manchester derby to be played outside the UK ended in the early hours of this morning and goals from Romelu Lukaku and Marcus Rashford helped Manchester United earn a 2-0 win over Manchester City and bragging rights for the red half of the city over the blue half.

It was billed as a friendly game, but we know that both teams and managers will always take any opportunity to try and get one over the other and in this case Jose Mourinho got the better of his arch rival Pep Guardiola. I stayed up to watch this fascinating encounter and I will bring you the things I took away from this game as both teams continue their preparation for the season ahead.

Mkhitaryan is ready to step up this season
One of the first pictures Manchester United put out on their website to announce the start of their pre-season, was one of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the Armenian became the butt of many jokes as his stomach looked protruded in that picture which made the club quickly delete the picture. However, Mkhitaryan has shown that the observations and mockery from fans were far from reality as he has looked very sharp in pre-season and was once again outstanding for United in the derby. He was everywhere on the pitch, gliding through City players like an Olympic figure skater and picking out his teammates with ease. He looks like a man in fantastic shape and is ready for the new season, which has got me thinking if that picture was taken from an unflattering angle or if the American heat has been good to him and helped knock him into shape. Big things were expected from the Armenian when he joined the club last season, but he didn’t deliver as expected and Jose Mourinho had to challenge him to become more consistent for the team and he seems to be ready to step up this season and become the player we all know he can be.

Manchester United looked fresher
This was Manchester United’s third friendly in the US already compared to City, who were playing their first and it was obvious as Jose Mourinho made only four changes at the break instead of bringing on a completely fresh team like he did in the previous two games, which showed that he was trying to give more playing time to certain players. Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jesse Lingard, Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera were all on the pitch till the hour mark, which showed that he was trying to get more minutes from them, although it could be argued that with Juan Mata’s injury, he didn’t have a lot of choices. He also dispensed with the experimental the back three he had experimented with at some points during this tour and reverted to a more traditional back four as Manchester United look like these final few friendly matches more serious as they step up their preparations for the new season.

Manchester City might still have a goalkeeper problem
Quite a few eyebrows were raised when Pep Guardiola splashed £35M on a new goalkeeper in the form of the Brazilian Ederson Moraes and the 23-year old had a moment to forget as United’s big signing, Romelu Lukaku gave United the lead, when he rushed off his line to try and intercept a long ball that he was never going to get to. He was so late to the ball that he couldn’t even make an attempt to stop Lukaku, whose finish brilliantly from a tight angle. Manchester City fans will remember with some bit of trepidation as Claudio Bravo had a shaky derby against the same opponents in the league last season and never really recovered from it as he was scrutinized heavily from then on, which ate away at his confidence as every mistake was magnified. However, to the young goalkeeper’s credit, he dealt with another similar situation very well in the second half, which sort of meant that he had already pushed the first half blunder away from his mind, which is the type of mentality he would need to survive in England. Also, a triple save from Phil Jones at close range after that would have given his confidence a boost.

Manchester City need a left back
The Citizens are in dire need of a left back before the start of the season. Last season, they used Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov in that position, while Clichy has moved on from the club, Kolarov is getting any younger and will not be able to bomb up and down the left side of the pitch. They used Fernandinho and Eliaquim Mangala at left back against Manchester United this morning and neither are suited to that position. There has been rumours that City are trying to get the Monaco left back, Benjamin Mendy and they’ve been trying to seal that deal for a a while now. After this game, they will need to ramp up their attempts to acquire him as they are clearly lacking in that position. Although they will need to pay around £50m, right now, it seems like a worthy fee for the Frenchman as Guardiola’s lack of alternatives is striking and Mendy might prove to be their most essential move of the entire summer.

Manchester City have a gem in Phil Foden
The brightest spot for City in this game was the performance of seventeen-year-old Stockport born midfielder Phil Foden. He seized his chance in this game, demanding the ball from the off and making very intelligent off the ball runs. He also passed the ball very well and showed an uncanny ability to get past opponents. It was hardly surprising that Guardiola kept him on after half-time while the other youngster, Patrick Roberts was taken off.

At such a young age, he has a real chance of breaking into the first team. He has been in Manchester City since he was six and scored in last season’s FA Youth Cup final against Chelsea. He might just become the academy product to properly break into City’s first team. This was a very encouraging first outing. He is probably too small to be considered for the EPL in his favoured position at central midfield at present but it is easy, to see him having a similar kind of impact at City as David Silva in the future.

So these are the major things we learned from the first ever Manchester derby to be played in the US and it has surely whetted our appetite for the upcoming season and we just can’t wait for it to begin.


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