In the single most crucial game in the Premier League so far, Manchester City beat Manchester United in Old Trafford and widened the gap between the two to eleven points. Given City's outstanding form, it would be illogical to expect them to lose twelve points until May, but everything is possible in football.
The way the teams played Sunday, it would be fair to say that all sides got what they deserved. Pep Guardiola's strategy to dominate the game in United's half made them the more attacking side throughout the game, while Mourinho sat deep and hopelessly played long balls to the Lukaku-Martial-Lingard trio.
First of all, it was clearly evident from the beginning that Manchester City was the side with the motivation to play with the ball and score, even though it should have been the opposite.
The Red Devils left the initiative to City and only tried to attack once they were already behind. To be honest, United's game was more or less compatible with what Mourinho has preached since the beginning of his career, "He who has the ball has fear." But what the Special One forgot Sunday, is that fear is a small price you pay for controlling and shaping the game. Even that can be controlled, if not eliminated, through a decent organization of the game.
The Citizens knew what they were doing and what kind of a resistance United will put up against them. So the kind of fear Mourinho had hoped to create ahead of the game was simply not there.
The strategy Guardiola has formulated is effective in itself and does not need individual talents to operate perfectly. That is why no precautions against Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva or Gabriel Jesus was effective on United's side. On the other hand, their defensive worries and strict man-marking left huge spaces for City's midfield, which they used very effectively to prepare their attacks.
This game was another milestone in the history of football since it proved the fact that football has more potential when you have the initiative and put Mourinho's fear theory on its head. Although there cannot be a categorical difference between domination and counter-attacking, I believe the Manchester Derby also showed that controlling and shaping a game, in other words dominating it, can better determine the outcome than simply waiting for a mistake.
Mourinho now has to devote himself to develop his game and gain further control of the football. He does not have to be a coach who believes in dominating every minute of a match, but he must pay more respects to opponents and their game plans. By doing so, he will not have to opt for such basic strategies again.
Personally, I would have loved to see United fiercely press through the center of City's game and respond to their offensive game with equal aggressiveness. United is capable of playing that game and they have the right players and the coach. Now, it is time to counterattack Guardiola's kingdom.
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