Manchester United escaped Old Trafford with a win thanks to an officiating disaster class after Bruno Fernandes’ equaliser was allowed despite Marcus Rashford clearly impacting the play from an offside position.
The loss gives Arsenal an opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the table to 8 points, with both matches against the Gunners still to be played.
After teasing outrageous ideas against Manchester United, Pep Guardiola’s big suspense was actually just playing a strong and traditional Manchester City XI.
Ederson returned to goal, with Kyle Walker, Manuel Akanji, Nathan Ake and Joao Cancelo protecting him. Rodri, Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne were the midfield trio, with Phil Foden, Erling Haaland and Riyad Mahrez as the forwards.
Despite the strong and traditional lineup, it was another difficult 45 minutes of City football.
It had the themes of a great City big game performance. Bernardo was dropping deep to receive the ball and control the tempo, Cancelo showed early flashes of brilliance, but a lot of the team looked off. Simple passes were misplaced, giving United easy opportunities to counter, and it nearly gave United the lead early on.
United had several attacks against the run of play, capped off by a Rashford shot getting parried off the line after a mistime Ederson sweep attempt in the 34 minute.
With the last kick of the first half, Walker found himself with yards of space and fired a shot from 35 yards out, the courageous effort caused David De Gea to fully extend to protect his net, but it was just a yard wide.
Normally, that would not feel like a highlight, but a 35-yard prayer was City’s closest opportunity in the first half. After nearly 180 minutes of football, the Premier League champions were unable to muster a shot on goal.
But that didn’t last long.
From the moment the second half started, it was clear that City were in control. Their movement was quicker, more deliberate and composed; it was clear that Guardiola’s halftime talk had worked.
Despite the entire squad looking better from the start of the second half, Foden was replaced by Jack Grealish in the 57th. It felt harsh considering no one looked particularly great in the first half. But it immediately paid dividends.
Just three minutes later, City got their goal. After 15 minutes of sustained pressure, Mahrez found De Bruyne making a run into the box. The Belgian took an extra touch after receiving the ball to create a yard of space and used it to float a ball to the far post to a wide-open Grealish for an easy head-in.
However, just as it was beginning to look as though City were going to walk away from Old Trafford with three points, disaster struck.
Rashford’s offside run impacted the ability for Akanji, Walker, and Ederson to play the ball, allowing Fernandes to score the equaliser. And in the moments following the offside goal, United were able to grab the winner to escape with a controversial win.
It was yet another instance of dodgy officiating that cost City important points, as the gap between Arsenal and the Blues has the potential to widen.
Arsenal and Tottenham compete tomorrow in the North London derby at 4:30 pm (GMT) in a game that will have massive title implications.
City will play Tottenham next at 8 pm (GMT) on Thursday.
Man of the Match
It was a difficult game for almost everyone on the pitch, but Jack Grealish made the decisive difference as soon as he came on. Even though City were already looking in control from the moment the second half started, Grealish grabbed the goal and was a constant threat in the second half.
Ederson - 6
Walker - 7
Ake - 7
Akanji - 7
Cancelo - 6
Rodri - 8
Bernardo - 7
De Bruyne- 7
Mahrez - 7
Haaland - 6
Foden - 6
Subs: Grealish - 8
Written by: @IVIeehan
Follow our Twitter account for reliable, live updates on all the latest news and everything Manchester City in real time.