Man City vs Man United
Manchester City played host to bitter rivals Manchester United on Wednesday evening in a League Cup clash.
The Sky Blues headed into this game with a commanding 3-1 lead from the reverse fixture at Old Trafford.
Whoever won this tie knew that they would be meeting Aston Villa in the 2020 League Cup final, after Dean Smith’s side edged past Leicester in the other semi-final on Tuesday.
The Manchester clubs have dominated this competition in recent years.
Man City have garnered three of the last four League Cups, with United winning the remaining trophy.
And with relegation-battling Villa their opponents in the final, you would have fancied either City or United to pick up the trophy this term.
Man City put out a very strong starting XI at the Etihad, with Ederson, Fernandinho and Aymeric Laporte the most notable absentees for the Citizens.
Your City line-up for tonight!
XI | Bravo, Walker, Rodrigo, Otamendi, Cancelo, Gundogan, Mahrez, De Bruyne (C), Bernardo, Sterling, Aguero.
SUBS | Ederson, Stones, G Jesus, Zinchenko, D Silva, Foden, Garcia.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) January 29, 2020
Man United also fielded a strong squad, with the injured Marcus Rashford their biggest miss.
Team news time!
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) January 29, 2020
Matic gives Man United hope
As shown in the line-up above, Man City appeared to be deploying Rodri and Nicolas Otamendi as a centre-back pairing. But at the beginning of the tie, City were in fact playing a back three of Otamendi, Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo. This tactic will have likely thrown Ole Gunnar Solskjaer somewhat.
And it would be the new-look City side that carved out the first few chances of the evening, with both Sergio Aguero and Riyad Mahrez testing David de Gea in the opening exchanges.
The first 20 minutes flew by, with Pep Guardiola likely the much happier of the two bosses.
City had dominated the possession, made a few decent chances, and limited United’s attacking threat to virtually nothing.
Yet despite City’s early dominance, it would be the visitors who opened the scoring with their first effort on target.
Nemanja Matic would fire the ball past Claudio Bravo in the 35th minute.
#MUFC take the lead!
Matic unleashes a fierce low shot from 15 yards, which beats Bravo at the near post!
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) January 29, 2020
United’s goal did liven City up a bit, after Guardiola’s side had slowed their tempo somewhat. And Raheem Sterling would have the ball in the back of the net in the 42nd minute. But it was ruled out for offside.
The first 45 drew to a close with the score at 1-0, and United’s hopes of overturning their two-goal deficit very much alive.
Matic goes from hero to villain
The second-half began in very dissimilar fashion to the first, with Solskjaer’s side starting on the front foot.
Harry Maguire would then have a great chance to add United’s second of the evening, but he blazed his header over.
Sterling, who had not scored against the Red Devils before Wednesday, then had a superb chance for Man City, as he stormed into the United box, but was unable to keep his effort down.
That Sterling chance seemed to give the Sky Blues a new lease of life, as they upped their tempo, charging down the opposition and controlling the game similarly to how they had done in the first half-hour.
And the involvement of the experienced David Silva allowed Man City to gain further control in the game.
Man United were then very nearly caught out at the back, after a sleeping Harry Maguire was dispossessed by Sergio Aguero.
The ball then fell to David Silva, who really should have shot, but instead, the Spaniard laid the ball off to Ilkay Gundogan, who was quickly closed down.
United’s hopes of mounting a comeback then took a big blow in the final 15 minutes. Nemanja Matic was shown a second yellow for bringing down Gundogan, who was breaking away.
Shortly after Matic’s sending off, Aguero did have the ball in the back of the net for City, but it was ruled out for offside.
Man City into another League Cup final
Nicolas Otamendi would gift United a superb chance in the 86th minute, after the Argentine committed a rash foul on Maguire on the edge of City’s box. Luckily for the current LC holders, though, Fred fired the ball straight into the wall.
The game eventually finished 1-0 to Man United. As such, despite Manchester City being far from their best on Wednesday, they still booked their place in a third successive League Cup final.
However, their overall display will likely have angered Pep Guardiola, as apart from the opening 25 to 30 minutes, City didn’t really create an awful lot.
Man United, on the other hand, should take some positives from this victory, as they defended well for large periods vs the Premier League champions, and with some better quality up top, the Red Devils could have easily mounted a proper comeback.