Five United players who can hold their heads high despite City loss
After conceding the opening goal Manchester United capitulated against Manchester City in the first half but showed character to keep their feint hopes of winning the tie alive.
With Harry Maguire failing to overcome a knock sustained against Wolves, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s patched up defence lacked leadership.
Victor Lindelöf and Phil Jones looked all at sea trying to contain a Manchester City side that started without a natural striker.
There were fears that United could be on the end of an embarrassing score line with them trailing 3-0 at half-time and the crowd becoming increasingly disgruntled.
But Marcus Rashford reduced the deficit in the second-half and ensured United have a slim chance ahead of the second leg at the Etihad in three weeks time.
Here are the players that can come away from the defeat with their heads held high.
It was the first time the academy graduate had started back-to-back games for the senior side, but it was also his first defeat after starting a match.
Williams was up against the tricky Riyad Mahrez and with Rashford staying high up the pitch, Williams also had to deal with the rampaging Kyle Walker overlapping the Algerian.
There was no denying this was the biggest match of Williams’ career to date and instead of sitting back and admiring Mahrez’s abilities, Williams was always trying to get on the front foot and be at his aggressive best.
There were a couple of occasions where Williams had stolen a march on Walker, but his team mates didn’t have the awareness or quality to play him in.
The 19-year-old will be targeting his third consecutive start against Norwich at Old Trafford with Luke Shaw struggling for form and fitness.
After Rashford’s goal it was Williams who was trying to drive his team forward, galloping forward and leaving City players in his wake.
The left-back finished the match with one tackle, 4 interceptions, 2 clearances, 2 blocks and 83 touches (the second highest for United).
The Serbian’s introduction at half-time certainly gave United more steel in the centre of the park.
After a run of games, Matic looks to be getting stronger, sharper and more confident, which is a massive plus for Solskjaer with Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay on the side-lines.
With movement in front of him at a premium, the 31-year-old has shown a willingness to dribble past players, he may not be the quickest but it does force the opposition into breaking shape.
Manchester United were getting overrun in the midfield before Matic’s introduction, yes City may have eased off knowing the damage had been done, but the former Chelsea midfielder gave the hosts a towering physical presence and experience.
Despite coming on at the interval, Matic finished the game with the joint highest amount of dribbles and interceptions for the home side.
Things may have been different if the Brazilian had his midfield partner McTominay next to him and Maguire had recovered in time.
But Fred’s importance to this United side is growing regardless of who he is playing alongside.
He doesn’t need baby sitting anymore, he’s looking like a leader who wants to set the example and tone.
United’s number 17 topped our passing charts with 72 and was the only home player to register more than one tackle (3).
He also made 1 key pass, 4 interceptions and alongside Andreas Pereira was the most fouled player on the pitch (5). He also registered 20 final third passes.
Fred was constantly pressing and hassling the City players, eager to win possession and get his side on the front foot.
He is becoming the all-round midfielder the club wanted and if Solskjaer brings more quality signings into this squad, Fred’s performances will continue to elevate.
Despite being named captain, United’s talisman was struggling to have any influence on the match due to a lack of supply.
There is no denying if Rashford was playing in a side that possessed the wealth of creativity that Manchester City has, he would score a hell of a lot more goals.
United’s number 10 continued his impressive form in front of goal with a clinical finish into the bottom corner.
The goal was his fourth against Manchester City and he has only scored more against Chelsea (5).
After starting against Wolves in the number 9 position, Greenwood was given his first taste of the Manchester Derby at senior level.
His hold-up play was impressive once again, but instead of coming too deep which he did at times at Molineux he made sure he kept the City centre backs occupied.
With Jesse Lingard’s chronic form showing no signs of easing and Andreas Pereira interchanging between the central midfield and the number 10 position, maybe it’s time for Solskjaer to unleash a front four of James, Greenwood, Rashford and Martial against Norwich.
Greenwood’s through ball to Rashford was perfectly weighted and it was the type of service he was craving himself. Maybe it’s time for Solskjaer to give the youngster an opportunity in the problematic number 10 position.
In the Premier League, Europa League and League Cup this season, the 18-year-old has 10 direct goal involvements in 10 starts.
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