An early penalty from Bruno Fernandes shaped the game as Manchester United ended Manchester City’s unprecedented 21-game winning streak. Luke Shaw doubled United’s lead after the break with a goal of some serious quality and United put in an outstanding defensive performance at the Etihad.
Manchester United’s best player of 2021 enjoyed his best moment for the club with a brilliant second-half goal. It was a quality finish worthy of City’s benched Aguero but it came from Shaw, a player thriving in an inconsistent United side. Shaw is one of the side’s main creators but rarely a scorer.
His recent play has been deserving of more; strikers have missed chances created by the United full-back. This time he didn’t have to rely on them, driving forward after collecting from Dean Henderson, pushing it gently wider to Rashford. When Rashford fed it back, Shaw finished well with his left. It was his second big opportunity of the game, having seen a right-footed attempt saved in the first half. He is more attack-minded than ever before.
In defence, he continued excellent form. He dealt well with Riyad Mahrez, coping in one-on-one battles and winning the majority of them.
Credit has to also go to Aaron Wan-Bissaka who’s defensive contribution was immense against the league’s more fearsome attack.
Martial’s contribution did not come in terms of finishing chances. That was a great disappointment. On two occasions, perhaps more, Martial had to score. The most underwhelming was after McTominay was brought down, the referee played advantage and Martial took advantage of a brief lull in the game’s momentum. One-on-one with Ederson, it was the chance to wrap the game up. With space at the far post to finish, he went instead for the near post, Ederson read the move and saved relatively comfortably.
The impressive part of Martial’s game, then, was defensive. Martial is not often an energetic player but on Sunday, he turned up. He pressed not just with energy but with good communication, too, bringing up the rear of a Fernandes charge or taking the Portuguese with him. United pressed well throughout and Martial was a key part of that. When he did have the ball, he retained it pretty well. United attacks broke down when they didn’t include Martial and that’s telling.
There were five saves from Henderson in another excellent display for United’s second-choice goalkeeper. With De Gea away in Spain for the birth of his and Edurne’s child, Henderson has a fantastic opportunity to take his number one spot. This was a game which will convince many. Henderson’s confidence bleeds through to the rest of United’s backline.
He claims corners and crosses, comes out quickly to mop up poked balls through and saves well when required. And his distribution saw Luke Shaw double United’s lead in the second half. A top performance from Henderson at the Etihad.
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