Manchester United ended Manchester City's 21-match winning run with a 2-0 victory; Ole Gunnar Solskjaer: "City are too far ahead for us to think we can catch them. Last year we caught 15 points up on Leicester, but City are a different proposition"
Monday 8 March 2021 06:24, UK
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has downplayed suggestions his side have reignited the Premier League title race after ending Manchester City's 21-match winning run with a stunning 2-0 derby victory.
Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw struck early in each half at the Etihad Stadium as United inflicted a first defeat on their rivals since November.
The result cut City's lead over United at the top of the Premier League to 11 points and, while it may be a stretch to suggest the title race has been reignited, it has slowed what was looking like a procession.
Solskjaer stopped short of claiming the victory will act as a springboard to catch City in the title race this season, telling Sky Sports: "We just take one game at a time; City are too far ahead for us to think we can catch them. Last year we caught 15 points up on Leicester, but City are a different proposition.
"Even today they put us under so much pressure you could see we were playing against a very good team. When you come away with a 2-0 win and another clean sheet and a performance like this then you are delighted.
"Every game is different. We went back to be a little bit what we wanted to be and that's being direct. That was the Anthony Martial of old. Until two hours before warm-up I wasn't sure if he'd play. Today he rediscovered himself. He was really strong on the ball and very positive.
"We have to be positive, we're a positive team. We want to play at a high tempo, but we have to defend well, you have to defend to attack the spaces that appear. There has to be a collective, no team in world football has a chance against them [City] without being a collective, hungry team who knows you have to defend well but also be positive on the ball."
United have won three consecutive away games in all competitions against Manchester City for the first time since a run of four between November 1993 and November 2000.
The result extends a disappointing record Pep Guardiola has in the Manchester derby on home soil.
Amongst managers he has faced more than three times across all competitions as a top-flight boss, Solskjaer is the only one to have beaten the Spaniard (4) more often than he has lost (3).
Guardiola told Sky Sports: "It was a fantastic game. United make incredibly high pressing and they are so fast on the counter. We played good. Unfortunately we couldn't be clinical up front so we congratulate United.
"We will be the news because we lost. But the news is 21 victories in a row. There are still 30 points to play and we have to start to win again.
"That's football. Sometimes it happens. We played much better than the game against West Ham which we won.
"It's always the same. We win a game and then move onto the next one. It's the same here. We lose this so we go to the next one. It's a lesson. Even at 0-2 we played really well."
The result may certainly rejuvenate United, who might have feared being dragged into a battle for a top-four place after an indifferent series of performances.
The only downside for the visitors was the loss of the inspirational Marcus Rashford through injury in the second half.
"You'd say it was a perfect performance," Roy Keane told Sky Sports. "They had a great start obviously, but this was a good game for Manchester United today. People have been criticising them recently but they've been doing okay.
"Obviously for Manchester United you always expect more. But today, you knew, the counter-attack would have suited them down to the ground, and obviously they had a dream start after a minute going a goal up.
"After that City would have had to come at them a bit more. And Ole wouldn't have even dreamed of this in the morning to get a penalty after 30 odd seconds, particularly when Manchester City are in control."
United raced out of the blocks and Anthony Martial was clumsily clipped by Gabriel Jesus with just 34 seconds gone.
Referee Anthony Taylor pointed straight to the spot for what was the 92nd penalty of this Premier League season, equalling the number awarded in the entirety of the 2019-20 campaign.
Keane added: "It's a set-piece, a throw-in, and even here you're thinking, concentration levels, start quickly. Here, United want to be obviously on the front foot, there's nothing wrong with throwing it down the line but as soon as they throw it into midfield you look at United, they're like a pack of animals, hungry animals.
"They're all pressing. There's a mis-control by Jesus, and he's trying to make up for the mistake, but the more you look at it, it's just crazy what he's doing. Absolutely crazy. It's stupidity, it's crazy. Obviously it's a striker's tackle.
"But what's he doing? What is going through his mind? He's like a car crash. Martial's going nowhere. But it's the dream start for United, and I bet they couldn't believe their luck, they didn't even have to work for it."
Micah Richards added: "He got a rush of blood to his head, obviously makes a mistake, and he tries to make up for that but he's got Stones and Dias there so he doesn't need to go there.
"You're taught by your coaches first of all, if you make a mistake, run back and get the ball, but there's so many men behind him, he doesn't actually need to make a tackle there. And it's cost City the game really, after 34 seconds."
Since his Premier League debut in February 2020, Manchester United's Fernandes has scored 12 of the 13 penalties he has taken in the competition.
Indeed, his 12 penalty goals are more than any team besides Man Utd in the Premier League in this period.
Speaking to Sky Sports afterwards, the Portuguese said: "We all know it's difficult to play against them. They defend well and are good on the ball, but we did almost everything perfect and the result is the most important thing.
"It's about performing well until the end of the season and about trying to win every game. Scoring in the first minute is perfect as we then had more space to counter, and we know that the big threat we have is the counter.
"Against Tottenham we started with a penalty in the first minute but we still lost the game, so it's not always perfect. But we remained focus until the end, scored the second, and we defended well. We know that if we defend well, we have the chances to score.
"Some people may say United are now performing against the 'Big Six' because we won but it doesn't affect us. We've perhaps performed better against other big teams and didn't win. Football is about scoring goals and not conceding and that's what happened today. We took our chances."
City were beaten for the first time since November 2020, ending a run of 28 games without defeat across all competitions for Guardiola's side.
Kevin De Bruyne told Sky Sports: "Obviously I don't think we started very well. We knew it would be hard. We played into their hands with the first goal and we needed about 15 minutes to settle a bit. Then we played pretty good but we didn't score and that made a difference and made a mistake with the pressing for the second goal.
"It is not the best if you go behind after one minute but you still have 90 minutes after that. The second was a little worse but I think the mentality of the players was the same as always.
"It is not nice to lose the derby but sometimes it happens. We have to move on and Wednesday there is a new game.
"Sometimes it is necessary to lose games and have bad spells. Even in the winning run we had some bad spells but overcame then, we didn't today. Sometimes it can be a positive."
Manchester City host Southampton in the Premier League on Wednesday; coverage starts at 5.30pm with kick-off at 6pm.
Manchester United host AC Milan in the Europa League last 16 first leg on Thursday (kick-off 5.55pm) before returning to Premier League action at home to West Ham on Super Sunday; kick-off 7.15pm.