Gulf grows: Man City 12 pts clear of United with derby win
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — The fourth goal in the Manchester derby showed the gulf between the two rivals isn’t only widening in their Premier League positions but in technical quality as well.
With slickness and finesse, Manchester City strung together a 44-pass move before Ilkay Gundogan completed a 3-1 victory for the league leaders over Manchester United on Sunday.
City’s 12-point advantage over United is the largest after 12 games in the post-1992 Premier League era. And Jose Mourinho’s eighth-place team is as close to Cardiff in the relegation zone as it is to defending champion City at the top.
“I think we are not going to be relegated,” Mourinho said dryly, when United’s position was pointed out. “I think it’s not a bad performance at all, it’s a performance with mistakes. We paid for the mistakes. All the three goals are our mistakes.”
Completely outplayed by English football’s dominant force, Mourinho has little prospect of dethroning City as champions. A third attempt at bringing the Premier League trophy back to Old Trafford for the first time since Alex Ferguson retired in a blaze of glory in 2013 already appears over after barely a third of the season.
City’s opener came in the 13th minute when Raheem Sterling crossed to Bernardo Silva, who cut the ball back for David Silva to sweep into the net.
The only surprise was City’s inability to pile on more goals, with David Silva and Sergio Aguero also netting in a match where United was restricted to one shot on target, 36 percent possession and lacked the verve provided by the injured Paul Pogba.
“The way people who don’t understand football analyze it is with stats,” Mourinho said. “I don’t go for stats.”
The manager could look at his players’ lack of urgency on the ball.
Three minutes into the second half, Jesse Lingard conceded possession on the halfway line to Fernandinho who set Aguero free on a run to goal. After playing a one-two with Riyad Mahrez, Aguero struck through David De Gea’s raised arms at the near post to celebrate his new silver haircut with a goal.
Something did go right for United after Lingard was replaced by Romelu Lukaku.
The striker had been on the pitch only a minute when he was brought down by City goalkeeper Ederson and Anthony Martial reduced the deficit from the penalty spot.
“We were in a fight to try to get the equalizer,” Mourinho said.
Then the third goal came in the 44-pass move that started with Benjamin Mendy seizing control of the ball and ended with Gundogan left clear by Nemanja Matic to meet Bernardo Silva’s cross and put the ball past De Gea in the 86th minute.
This was how City wants to be viewed on the world stage: A team producing scintillating soccer on the field. Not as the team that appears to use elaborate financial mechanisms to try to avoid failing sporting financial regulations, as the Abu Dhabi ownership has been accused of doing after internal correspondence leaked over the last week.
Champions last season with 100 points, City heads into the international break with a two-point lead over Liverpool.
“We’re scoring a lot of goals, creating a lot of chances, conceding few,” City manager Pep Guardiola said, “and that is a rhythm.”
Even Watford and Bournemouth now sit above United, with Tottenham seven points in front in the fourth and final Champions League spot. Mourinho blamed the European competition for United’s collapse in the blue half of Manchester. While United had a tough midweek trip to Juventus — coming from behind to win 2-1 — City had the luxury of facing a weak Shakhtar Donetsk and easing to a 6-0 win.
“I’m not going to give that as an excuse,” said Mourinho, a three-time Premier League winner with Chelsea. “That’s not me.”
Only he did.
“Everybody has to agree,” Mourinho said. “One thing is to go to Juventus and play against one of the best teams in the world and play for 94 minutes in the limits, not just the physical but the mental.
“It’s another thing to beat Shakhtar Donetsk at home and enjoy the game and be relaxed. It’s completely different. We arrived in a little bit of different circumstances. I think some of the boys, they felt it a little bit.”