Man Utd beat Man City: ‘Offside’ row, Rashford rampant and Haaland muzzled

Manchester United sent a letter of intent to the rest of the Premier League with a dramatic comeback win against Manchester City.

A local derby already rich in subplots provided plenty of drama, particularly in the second half when Jack Grealish’s opener was reversed by Bruno Fernandes’ controversial equalizer and then Marcus Rashford’s close range winner.

Our experts analyze the most important conversation topics.

Why Man United’s equalizer was allowed to stand

The biggest controversy at Old Trafford revolved around United’s equalizer in the 78th minute.

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Why was Bruno Fernandes’ goal against Manchester City allowed to stand?

Casemiro’s pass over the top looked intended for Marcus Rashford’s fast attack, but the striker was clearly offside when the ball was played.

However, Rashford never touched the ball as it fell into his path; instead he allowed the onside Bruno Fernandes to shoot the ball in.

Fernandes celebrated and immediately protested his case to the assistant referee, and Scott McTominay – who was being readied for substitution – threw his arms up on the touchline in protest.

So, was it the right decision? Casemiro’s pass was certainly intended for offside Rashford, but the Englishman’s choice not to touch the ball allowed play to continue and Fernandes’ goal stood.

Although Rashford did not touch the ball as the assistant referee initially thought, there is an argument that he was so close to the ball and City’s players that he interfered with play. Rashford’s run shielded the ball from at least one defender and created a situation where Ederson was unable to get off his line to take Casemiro’s pass.

But former Premier League referee Peter Walton on BT Sport said he didn’t believe Rashford was interfering in the game, and eventually the officials agreed. City, it’s fair to say, didn’t.

Karel Duck

The city falls into bad habits

After Bruno Fernandes’ equalizer went in, Pep Guardiola was spotted pointing to his temple on the touchline. He reminded his players that despite all the controversy surrounding the goal, they now had to keep their focus.

Four minutes later they were behind. It’s a familiar pattern, one that City supporters have come to know during the Guardiola era. For all the unprecedented success, there are short, sharp moments when everything falls apart.

Remember the three goals in six minutes in the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid last year. The two in three minutes against Tottenham in the 2019 quarter-finals. The three in nine against in a defeat at Anfield in 2018, ending the eventual Centurions’ long unbeaten record.

Before Fernandes’ equaliser, City were dominant and had the upper hand, but have had to learn the hard way over the years that they are almost never safe.

Perhaps that’s part of the reason behind Guardiola’s pursuit of a greater sense of tactical control, which has provoked such debate over his selections and arguably contributed to a lukewarm, unimaginative first half.

And yet, despite that pursuit of control, City are still capable of losing it suddenly and irrevocably.

Mark Critchley

Rashford on fire

It’s six goals in six games for Rashford, who is arguably the Premier League’s top form player – a transformation for someone whose future was openly discussed in Manchester (and far beyond) last season.

The 25-year-old had an odd first half, unable to convert two decent chances before falling down with what appeared to be hip or thigh problems. He pressed on in the second half, eventually moving to center forward after a brief experiment with Antony up front.

Ultimately, he had the crucial say in how this dramatic game ended, with his goal and offside “interference” for the equalizer proving his threat on the counter-attack. But there are also newer tools in its game. His left foot has improved, as have his heading and passing.

Teammates trust him more with the ball and he plays with such confidence that he doesn’t take extra touches to stabilize himself for shots when he trusts to test the keeper early.

Fernandes ended the game with the man-of-the-match award, but his embrace with Rashford at full-time showed who the talisman figure is for this United side in early 2023.

Karel Duck

Grealish’s bittersweet big moment

Jack Grealish doesn’t score much. He never actually did. The personal best of the most expensive player in Premier League history for a single season is a total of 10 in the 2019-20 season for Aston Villa.

Grealish’s harshest critics, therefore, have always had one obvious, obvious flaw in his game to point out: a lack of finished product.

To build their defence, his fiercest supporters have always had to delve into the realm of more advanced stats: progressive possession, touches in the box and the like. It’s not such a convincing argument.

Jack Grealish celebrates his goal (Photo: Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images)

But what could be more convincing than a goal in a Manchester derby, arguably the biggest of Grealish’s City career to date? Before the second Premier League game, and once again away to a ‘Big Six’ club, his introduction had a tangible impact, even though Grealish eventually left Old Trafford as frustrated as any of his teammates.

Still, Grealish’s last five appearances have yielded a goal and three assists. That’s not bad for a £100 million player with a lack of finished product.

Mark Critchley

Unflashy Fred brings stability

United’s line-up may have raised some eyebrows, with Fred joining Casemiro in the midfield pivot, while Fernandes went wide on the right and Christian Eriksen started as the 10. their best in recent seasons.

Eriksen’s job was to follow Rodri closely and prevent City from easily building from behind, while Fred followed De Bruyne like a shadow. The Brazilian’s energy and hunger for a loose ball saw him outsmart De Bruyne – there were two striking occasions in the first 20 minutes that saw the Old Trafford crowd roar in approval – and his left foot brought balance to the passes from United from the back that Ten Hag often craves.

Fred was brought in to destroy Kevin De Bruyne (Picture: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Fernandes and Rashford then followed City’s wide men with an intensity and depth that United don’t always manage in big games.

It squeezed the air out of City’s midfield and left Pep Guardiola’s side looking flat: a bit of a contrast to the game between the sides earlier this season when United were 4-0 down at half-time.

What changed in the second half? An injury to Anthony Martial left United unable to focus on winning the ball. And as legs grew tired, De Bruyne found more space on both sides of midfield.

Fred’s lockdown job couldn’t last forever, and the introduction of Jack Grealish, coupled with a knock on Rashford that looked to hinder the England international, meant there were more runners for United to follow from midfield. City took control for a while, until United’s late comeback brought another twist.

Karel Duck

Haaland forced deeply… in vain

If you had to predict where this Manchester derby would be won and lost based on team data alone, the prospect of Erling Haaland going up against left center back Luke Shaw seemed the most likely.

Only it never really happened. Instead, Haaland was often seen sinking deeper than we’re used to seeing, with the vast majority of his first-half touches coming closer to the halfway line than the 18-yard box.

If the idea was to involve him more in the game, it didn’t work. Haaland spent so much of his time uninvolved in the play that he presumably picked up the chants of “Keano, Keano” sent his way from Old Trafford.

Perhaps this was the compromise Guardiola felt he had to make: playing the ‘destabilisers’ everyone wants to see Haaland’s role, but change it to keep an element of control.

It was another tactical micro-tweak many have seen at City of late and another that didn’t pay off, and it took Guardiola halftime to fix the problem. In the second half, Haaland pushed further forward and City were able to exert more control, at least until the last crazy minutes.

Mark Critchley

Misery for Martial

Anthony Martial was a late inclusion in Ten Hag’s starting eleven, having done enough to convince United’s medical staff and management that he had overcome a late leg problem on Friday to make the team.

The 27-year-old (admit it, you thought he was younger) had an odd first half against City, and certainly didn’t look quite fit. In the first 10 minutes he didn’t go out of his way to stay offside for a possible counter-attack, but soon after failed to close off Ederson when the City goalkeeper had to deal with a tricky back pass. The entire time, his running pace was somewhere between a jog and a pained sprint.

Anthony Martial was forced off at halftime (Getty Images)

Martial’s first touch, passing intelligence and back-to-goal play make him essential to Ten Hag’s attack plans, but the United coach has admitted the striker cannot handle the “physical strain” of three 90-minute appearances in a week and he was replaced. by Antony at halftime.

It was unfortunate timing for the French striker as new signing Wout Weghorst was present at Old Trafford on Saturday. There must be a good chance that the Dutchman will play more Premier League games than Martial at the end of the season.

Karel Duck

(Top photo: Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

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