Manchester United's four best players in second away win at Manchester City

Manchester United’s players did themselves proud but fell short at The Etihad. A 1-0 win was not quite enough to overturn a 3-1 first leg defeat.

A number of United players stood out. We have picked out four who really impressed.

Fred

It was another fine performance from Fred in a big match. United may not have gone through to the EFL Cup final, but Fred was key in a victory on the day.

His greatest attribute is opening up the game. Fred constantly finds himself under pressure on or near the halfway line and turns into space, freeing himself of his marker and beginning the United attack.

It was on show again and again at the Etihad, just like in December when United won 2-1 in the Premier League. Fred won more duels (11), made more recoveries (8), won more tackles (4) and created more chances (3) than anyone else on the pitch.

Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

Brandon Williams

It was another slightly unorthodox role for Brandon Williams. At Anfield and the Etihad he has been asked to play as a left-wing-back cum defensive left-back, combining with Luke Shaw. It’s not the hardest role to play but it requires a good sense of positioning and good awareness.

He’s shown both of those attributes to have good games away to Liverpool and City. On Wednesday night, he showed his quality in a more modest way than normal. He’s a fighter and everyone knows that. While United handed City the advantage as Nemanja Matic was sent off, Williams’ tackles and headers were clean but strong. His maturity is excellent to see.

Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Harry Maguire

One terrible pass after a moment of indecision almost ruined a good display from Maguire. It was a mistake that should have been fatal for United and should have left them level. But City wasted it. Had they not, that would have marred Maguire’s day.

However, aside from that error, Maguire did well. Victor Lindelof looked poor next to him but a couple of recoveries from Maguire and one goal-saving challenge on Raheem Sterling in the penalty area were key.

The United captain reigned supreme at Tranmere Rovers, stepping out of defence. This he did on a couple of occasions at the Etihad, though not to the same effect.

Another disappointing moment was a header put over the crossbar in the 48th minute. After getting above his marker, he should have done better and scored.

David de Gea

This was more like it from the Spaniard. He made a number of key saves in the early stages to keep United in the game.

Nights like this show why he is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. His performance deserved so much more.

He showed his manager why he was right to put him in instead of usual cup specialist Sergio Romero.

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Life-long Manchester United fan with a strong interest in the club's academy. Host of the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. First game at Old Trafford was the 7-1 rout of AS Roma in 2007.