Ole Gunnar Solskjaer underplays talk regarding his team’s recent victorious role in reigniting the Premier League title race.
March 8, Etihad Stadium: A dream start for United and a stroke of luck. Just after 34 seconds, Bruno Fernandes scored a penalty shot changing the Premier League’s projected course and unsettling City rivals.
50 minutes later, Luke Shaw scored the second goal; thus, ending a procession of 21 winning matches by Manchester City.
Despite the change in the progression of things, it is too early to suggest a revival of the title race.
— Premier League (@premierleague) March 7, 2021
Solskjaer told Sky Sports:
“We take one game at a time; City is too far ahead for us to think we can catch them. Last year we caught 15 points up on Leicester, but City is a different proposition.”
Sunday’s match, however, leads to a turnabout in United’s chance to regain a place in the top four.
They were in the third position but moved up to the second. The city still stands to be at the top of the table, though its match-winning run was suddenly stalled.
The penalty shot was unexpected. When the United team sprinted out of the blocks, Anthony Martial was tripped by Gabriel Jesus.
Fernandes celebrates scoring of an opening penalty shot. The 92nd penalty of this season’s Premier League and referee Anthony Taylor pointed out directly to the spot.
Similarly, Fernandes’ shot squeezed past City keeper Ederson despite his firm hand on the ball.
A well-deserved win for United
From the start, United played hard, building up a fast, rigorous pace. They maintained a solid defense through a tight-knit team effort and counterattack.
They were in control of their game and commanded their moves in swift precision and follow up.
Every player worked hard in cohesion or individually to perform at his best. United’s strategy has succeeded in the past and deducted points off City.
After Fernandes’ first goal, the match resumed momentum, with Guardiola’s side starting to dominate.
But United’s stance was so strong and defense so well organized, there was little chance for City to breakthrough.
City tried to get back into the game, but they were up against a formidable United. A very experienced team has been underachieving this season, and they need to perform more consistently to go forward in matches.
Anthony Martial’s brilliant but inconsistent play marked a significant lift for United. Though he missed out on several second-half openings, he is symbolic of what the club, perhaps, needs to represent.
Later, he was deservedly applauded by his team after Nemanja Matic took his place. Second goal shot by Luke Shaw to make a winning score of 2-0.
Luke Shaw’s stellar performance
After the break, Rodri nearly equaled the score, but his shot bounced off. Then came Luke Shaw’s outstanding performance that secured the second goal.
Similarly, goalkeeper Dean Henderson’s accurate throw to Shaw enabled him to stride close by the City’s box.
Earlier, he had missed an opportunity, but swift passes between him and Marcus Rashford led to a successful low shot that beat Ederson.
United’s dominance increased after the second goal. The third goal by Martial was in the works, but the action got derailed by Ederson.
Solskjaer deserves much credit that has resulted in United’s exceptional performance and victory.
“Even today, they put us under so much pressure you could see we were playing against an excellent team. When you come away with a 2-0 win and another clean sheet and a performance like this, then you are delighted.”
City’s Eventual Fall Out
The best teams cannot always win matches one after the other. The city’s winning streak came to an end, and United had the strategy and game plan to do so.
But losing the game doesn’t in any way discourage City, as they still are in the lead with 11 points.
Their slow start and a penalty within 34 seconds of the match didn’t help to begin with. The best of their players were not in their top form.
Kevin de Bruyne, usually in control of the ball, wasn’t being influential. Jesus’s foul against Fernandes was not a good sign. And Guardiola did not select his chief marksman Sergio Aguero from the bench.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) March 9, 2021
On the bright side, City still looks forward to chasing four trophies. Although they lost out to United, it is just one defeat for now. Besides, they’re still seen as the only possible Premier League champions by how they have won consecutively.
Guardiola told Sky Sports:
“It was a fantastic game. United makes incredibly high pressing, and they are so fast on the counter. We played well. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be clinical upfront, so we congratulate United.”
Fernandes told Sky Sports after the match,
“It’s a marathon. There is a lot of games to go ahead now. We have to do our best and don’t think about others; think just about us and winning our games.”