Kelechi Iheanacho became the youngest Manchester City scorer in the Manchester Derby as City beat United 2-1 to go top of the Premier League table yesterday. City have now won their first four league matches this season and are top of the table on 12 points. The 19-year-old Nigeria international’s 36th minute goal proved to be the difference between the two Manchester sides at Old Trafford.
Iheanacho reacted quickest when Kevin De Bruyne’s shot came off the post. Daley Blind kept Iheanacho on side television replays later showed. Iheanacho, who started this derby in place of the suspended Sergio Aguero, also had a hand in City’s first goal as he expertly flicked a header towards the onrushing De Bruyne who did well to toe poke past a static Blind before firing unerringly past De Gea in the United goal on the quarter hour.
City manager Pep Guardiola was quizzed about his level of trust in Iheanacho before kick-off and he replied in the affirmative. “He (Iheanacho) is our striker and I trust him. That is why I chose him to start against Manchester United,” Guardiola told ITV minutes before kick-off.
City’s win means Guardiola drew first blood in his renewed managerial duel with Jose Mourinho as Manchester City deservedly won an absorbing derby.
After months of hype in Manchester – and well beyond -following the appointment of the two great managerial foes, it was Guardiola’s side who initially took complete control of a game that was being billed as one the whole world was watching. For much of the first half, City’s slick passing and neat movement brought back memories of the way Guardiola’s old Barcelona side would once often pass rings round Mourinho’s Real Madrid.
Despite being outpassed and outclassed in a one-sided first half, United were offered a lifeline when Bravo, whose signing to replace City favourite Joe Hart has been the most controversial move of Guardiola’s brief reign, failed to claim a straightforward free kick from the right. He dropped the ball under no great pressure, allowing the alert Ibrahimovic to volley home from the edge of the box and quite transform the game’s dynamic.
But a delighted Guardiola praised his team’s first-half performance and jumped to the defence of Bravo. “In the second half, he continued to play and that’s a good thing about his personality. He was one of the reasons we played well in the first half,” Guardiola said.
Mourinho, though, was adamant that Clattenburg should have awarded penalties when Bravo, having lost control of the ball in his own area, lunged in with studs showing to tackle Rooney and also when a cross hit Nicolas Otamendi’s arm. “Mark made two big mistakes. Claudio Bravo is a penalty and a red card,” Mourinho said.
“The second one is a handball by Nicolas Otamendi – some pundits will say no because it’s the back of the arm but he knows. He’s looking at the ball. We are not happy with these decisions.”