Manchester United stun City in thrilling derby to gatecrash Premier League title race

Marcus Rashford nets the winner as Erik ten Hag's stars complete impressive comeback

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Manchester United are very much serious Premier League title contenders again for the first time in what seems like an eternity after their impressive 2-1 comeback victory against Manchester City on Saturday.

Marcus Rashford continued his remarkable rise from the depths of despair last season to the most potent goalscorer in the league, boasting a recent record that Erling Haaland would be proud of as he scored for a seventh successive match to settle a pulsating derby clash.

But there were heroes all over the pitch, from Luke Shaw proving to be one of the best makeshift central defenders in the game once more, to Casemiro, the Roy Keane replacement United have been waiting for too long.

Trailing 1-0 to a supreme unit like City would have seen previous post-Sir Alex Ferguson managers dead and buried, but goals from Bruno Fernandes and Rashford kept Erik ten Hag's stars on their path back to the summit of the game as they moved to within a point of the champions.

It would be a monumental effort for Ten Hag to overturn Arsenal’s lead, but the fact they are even in the title conversation is remarkable.

The first half was a defensive masterclass from Ten Hag, a lesson to the rest of the Premier League in how to stifle City and counter their high press.

The United boss was unequivocal in his pre-match programme notes calling for zero complacency, and defensively, that is what he got in the opening period.

A backline that last conceded a home league goal against Arsenal in early September never looked troubled by goalscoring phenomenon Haaland and his teammates.

With Fred as an extra man in midfield, Shaw again looking at home as a centre-back, and Casemiro a near-impenetrable wall ahead of the defence, City did not get a sniff, with all the goalmouth action down the other end.

Rashford should really have opened the scoring when rounding a wayward Ederson midway through the first half, but saw a tame strike blocked on the line by Manuel Akanji.

The in-form England forward was then thwarted by Ederson at his feet as United continue to press.

The second half, however, was a very different story. Even though Antony Martial was ineffective in the extreme in the opening period, his withdrawal at half time left United without a strike focal point, making them much less of a threat. Something City jumped on with relish.

Ten Hag could have done with new loan signing Wout Weghorst, who was only able watch from the stands, as a cross from Kevin De Bruyne landed on the head of Grealish, who could not miss just after the hour mark. Not a bad way to introduce yourself to the match, 193 seconds after coming on for the fruitless Phil Foden.

Trailing at home in the league was an unfamiliar feeling for United, and the masses grew restless as the final ball from Fernandes and Christian Eriksen failed to find a target. The options ahead of the pair, in fairness, were conspicuous by their absence.

Ten Hag’s United, however, are a very different beast altogether, complete with players who do not know when they are beaten.

The personification of this new-found grit is Casemiro, who kept United pushing, providing a perfect pass for Fernandes to level with 12 minutes to go, even though Rashford was initially flagged offside.

But there was nothing wrong with Rashford’s winner, as he found the net for the ninth successive match at Old Trafford, on the end of a brilliant low cross from supersub Alejandro Garnacho.

The champions never looked like finding a late leveller, as United held on for only their second home league win over City in eight attempts.

The celebrations were wild, with Raphael Varane the ringleader, throwing the punches to the crowd. The title race, in this part of Manchester, is finally back in the vernacular.

Updated: January 14, 2023, 3:01 PM