Manchester United 0-0 Manchester City: Five talking points
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 26/10/15 12:30pm
Manchester United and Manchester City played out a goalless draw in an evenly contested derby at Old Trafford.
United substitute Jesse Lingard came closest to scoring when he struck the crossbar in the closing stages, but it was a game of few chances.
Here are some of the top talking points as City went back to the top of the Premier League table on goal difference…
Defending rules the day
There were an average of 4.1 goals per game in the previous 10 Manchester derbies, but any hope of that trend continuing began to evaporate in a cagey first half. "It was a half without mistakes," said Gary Neville in the Sky Sports commentary box. "It was a half where both teams really concentrated. There was very little wrong with the defending."
It was the first time since the 2003/04 season that United failed to muster a single shot in the first half of a Premier League game, and City looked equally unlikely to find a breakthrough. It was only in the last 10 minutes that the game finally came to life.
United substitute Jesse Lingard hit the bar from Anthony Martial's lofted pass, and at the other end Nicolas Otamendi almost connected with a wicked free kick. Joe Hart then made the first meaningful save of the afternoon when he tipped Chris Smalling's low shot around the post.
All eyes were on Manuel Pellegrini's team sheet to see whether Vincent Kompany would be reinstated - and sure enough the skipper returned to the heart of defence. The City manager had been unhappy with Kompany for playing for Belgium as he recovered from injury, but the 29-year-old was recalled for his first start since early September.
City conceded 11 goals and failed to keep a single clean sheet in Kompany's absence, and his return certainly had a stabilising effect at Old Trafford. There was one rash challenge on Martial in the first half which earned him a booking, but this was City's fifth clean sheet in the seven games Kompany has started this season.
The stats showed Kompany gained possession more times and won more aerial duels than any of his team-mates, and his centre-back partner Otamendi also impressed, with Neville naming the Argentine man of the match.
United shackle De Bruyne
In the absence of David Silva, the creative burden at City has fallen on Kevin de Bruyne. A lot was expected of the Belgian after three goals and three assists in his first five Premier League appearances, but United coped with him admirably.
De Bruyne started the game on the right, where he encountered a tricky opponent in Marcos Rojo. The Argentine defender made more tackles and interceptions combined (nine) than any of his team-mates, and Neville was impressed. "Rojo has been all over him like a rash," he said. "He's tough."
De Bruyne was duly moved to the left flank after Raheem Sterling's substitution, with Navas moving to the right, but he fared little better up against Antonio Valencia. Only two of De Bruyne's nine crosses found a team-mate, with Wilfried Bony generally starved of service.
Martial impresses again
In what was a largely ineffective attacking display from United, Martial impressed once again, and in the Sky Sports studio, Jamie Carragher sang his praises. "There was only one attacking player today who could look back on this game and be pleased with his performance - Martial," he said.
The Frenchman started on the left flank again, with Wayne Rooney through the middle. "He's brought something to the game and looked dangerous," added Carragher. "Every time the ball comes to him something's going to happen because he's got that pace."
Martial made seven dribbles in total, five more than anyone else on the pitch. His best moment, however, was his perfectly weighted pass over the top from which Lingard hit the bar.
No birthday joy for Rooney
In what has become a regular occurrence at United this season, Martial rather outshone Rooney. The United captain has scored more goals (11) than anyone else in Manchester derbies, but he struggled to make an impact a day after celebrating his 30th birthday.
Rooney was not exactly spoilt for service, but he failed to muster a single meaningful shot on goal to trouble Hart. More worryingly, his distribution and link-up play was also disappointing, as he posted a pass accuracy of just 54.8 per cent - the lowest of all 22 players who started the game.
It was another display which raises questions of his suitability to play as United's central striker. He had fewer touches than any of United's outfield starters for the second successive game, and he only touched the ball once in City's box. Louis van Gaal will have been satisfied with a point, but Rooney's displays remain a cause for concern.