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Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City: Hits and flops as Pep Guardiola’s men march into fourth straight final | Carabao Cup 2020-21

Manchester City were deserving 2-0 winners over Manchester United in their semi-final encounter
Manchester City were deserving 2-0 winners over Manchester United in their semi-final encounter

Manchester City knocked out city rivals Manchester United in the semi-final stage of the Carabao Cup for the second year running as Pep Guardiola’s men registered a deserved 2-0 win at Old Trafford on Wednesday.

John Stones and Fernandinho were the unlikely goalscorers for the defending champions. The pair bagged second-half strikes to ensure that Manchester City would be making their fourth straight appearance in the final of the cup competition.

An evenly-contested first half saw the ball hit the back of the net thrice, twice for City and once for United, only for VAR to disallow all three efforts.

Kevin de Bruyne hit the post while Bruno Fernandes forced a diving save from Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen as both sides went into the break on level terms.

The visitors went ahead five minutes into the second half, with Stones scoring his first Manchester City goal since November 2017 to put his side ahead in the tie.

Manchester City, who had been good value for their lead, looked the more threatening side throughout. They subsequently doubled their lead through Fernandinho in the 83rd minute.

The two-goal lead proved insurmountable for Manchester United, who lost their fourth straight semi-final encounter. Meanwhile, Manchester City enter their fourth consecutive Carabao Cup final, where they will meet Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur in April.

On that note, here are the hits and flops from an engaging contest at Old Trafford in which Manchester City ran out deserving 2-0 winners.


#1 Hit: John Stones (Manchester City)

John Stones backed up an imperious defensive showing with an unlikely goal
John Stones backed up an imperious defensive showing with an unlikely goal

From virtual outcast to regular mainstay in the Manchester City backline, it has been a quite remarkable return to form for John Stones.

Alongside Ruben Dias, Stones has formed Manchester City’s unlikely first-choice centre-back pairing and has helped transform a fairly fragile defence to an extremely miserly one this season.

In fact, Callum Hudson-Odoi’s late consolation for Chelsea against Manchester City on Sunday was just the second that they had conceded in the Premier League this season with Stones on the pitch.

The Englishman was absolutely imperious in defence for City against Manchester United in this encounter, showing great pace and positioning throughout the game as he made several important tackles and interceptions to keep attackers at bay.

To cap off an impressive display, Stones also bagged himself a goal, ghosting in at the back post and tapping a Phil Foden free kick off his thigh to register his first goal for his side in over three years.

#2 Flop: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United)

Manchester United's talismanic midfielder was frustratingly off the pace against Manchester City
Manchester United's talismanic midfielder was frustratingly off the pace against Manchester City

While both sides were fairly evenly matched for most of the game, the result was tipped in Manchester City’s favour thanks to their superior creativity and finishing. These are qualities that Bruno Fernandes has displayed aplenty during his time with Manchester United. However, he failed to produce on the night.

Having provided the magical touch to single-handedly lift a sub-par Manchester United side to victory on a number of occasions, Fernandes was effectively marked out of the game by the close attentions of Fernandinho & Co. As a result, the Red Devils' star man struggled to impose himself on proceedings.

There was a lot of intent throughout the game but Fernandes and Manchester United, in general, lacked execution. The Portugal international was largely reduced to taking hopeful pot shots from distance or was hurried into skewing his closer efforts wide.

The trademark accuracy of the playmaker’s passing radar was also off the mark as his through balls often failed to find their intended targets in the face of Manchester City’s dogged defence.

#3 Hit: Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)

Kevin De Bruyne was hugely influential in all of Manchester City's attacking play
Kevin De Bruyne was hugely influential in all of Manchester City's attacking play

Kevin De Bruyne pulled the strings in midfield in a manner that his attacking counterpart Bruno Fernandes failed to replicate as Manchester City ran out worthy winners.

The Belgian midfielder, who was part of Manchester City’s fluid front three, was involved in all of their attacking play, linking up superbly with his teammates as Pep Guardiola’s men relentlessly flooded forward with great intent.

De Bruyne’s clever movement meant that Manchester United’s defenders struggled to mark him effectively, regularly allowing him time on the ball and space to run into, both of which he used to great effect in creating goal-scoring opportunities.

The Belgian playmaker was extremely unfortunate not to get on the scoresheet early on, as his long-range effort whizzed past Dean Henderson in the Manchester United goal only to cannon back off the post.

#4 Flop: Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City)

A frustrating putting in the false 9 role for Riyad Mahrez against Manchester United
A frustrating putting in the false 9 role for Riyad Mahrez against Manchester United

Drafted into the starting lineup after spending Manchester City’s win against Chelsea on the bench, Riyad Mahrez cut a frustrated figure in a largely anonymous display that saw him starved of the ball and on the fringes of his side’s attacking play.

The Algerian, whose turn it was to be deployed in the false 9 role after de Bruyne had a go against Chelsea, was kept in check throughout by Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire and barely got a touch in the first half.

Even when Mahrez, De Bruyne, and Raheem Sterling swapped positions and Mahrez found himself in his preferred spot out on the wing, the former Leicester City man was unable to affect proceedings as his path to goal was blocked off by Luke Shaw.

A long-range effort that was tipped over the bar by Henderson was Mahrez’s only contribution of note in the game. He was replaced by Rodri for the final 10 minutes as Manchester City looked to shore up things at the back after taking the lead.

#5 Hit: Ruben Dias (Manchester City)

Ruben Dias (L) was every bit as impressive as his central defensive partner John Stones (R)
Ruben Dias (L) was every bit as impressive as his central defensive partner John Stones (R)

Having been signed from Benfica over the summer, Ruben Dias was expected to be an option in defence for Manchester City. He has since exceeded expectations to emerge as one of the first names on the team sheet for Pep Guardiola’s side.

A no-nonsense centre-back, Dias has struck up an instant partnership with John Stones. While the Englishman plays the role of ball carrier, the Portugal international sits back and focuses more on the defensive side of things.

The duo were on top form against Manchester United, barely allowing the hosts’ star-studded attacking lineups a kick near their goal, ensuring that rookie goalkeeper Zack Steffen was never in any real trouble.

While both Stones and Dias made a number of vital interceptions, Stones managed to get himself on the scoresheet. Dias matched his contribution with a series of vital blocks to keep Manchester United shots at bay.

Such has been the success of the Stones-Dias partnership for Manchester City this season that Nathan Ake and Aymeric Laporte have struggled to get a game, a fact that is unlikely to change after tonight’s exceptional showing.

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Edited by Rachel Syiemlieh
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