The much anticipated 170th Manchester derby didn’t witness a shot on target until the 82nd minute, when substitute Jesus Navas shot was saved by his fellow countryman David De Gea. That was testimony to the resolute defending from both teams, but also a lack of urgency, desire, creativity and from the midfielders and forwards on show. This was Manchester United’s opportunity to take advantage of facing a Manchester City team without their two best attacking players, Sergio Aguero and David Silva, but failed to do so, as City claimed a point to take them back to the top of the Premier League.
Marcos Rojo kept City’s new boy and in-form Kevin De Bruyne quiet, whilst at the other end, United’s in-form forward Anthony Martial looked a real threat every time he had the ball, with his positive style of play running at the City defence.
United substitute Jesse Lingard came closest to breaking the deadlock on 84 minutes when a chipped pass from Martial was flicked past Joe Hart by Lingard, hitting the cross bar in the process.
Moments later Marouane Fellaini headed into the path of Chris Smalling from a free kick, only for his right footed shot being kept out by a smart low save from Hart.
Louis van Gaal kept faith with his captain Wayne Rooney, despite calls from many supporters to drop him from the starting eleven. Rooney’s display and statistics did very little to suggest it was the right call from van Gaal, whilst Anthony Martial was asked to play wide left to accommodate Rooney.
Surely Martial, who was voted player of the month, scoring and playing well, should have retained his place as the focal point of attack, and would have caused Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi more problems than Rooney, playing as a number 9?
Whilst Rooney may have the off field distraction of his wife Coleen expecting their child very soon, the downward turn in his performances have been ongoing for some time now, van Gaal could do now worse than to ‘rest’ his leader and inject some necessary pace and penetration in the form of Jesse Lingard or Memphis. After all, that’s what the United manager has intimated on numerous occasions that he likes his teams to play with speed up top, which Rooney is sadly failing to contribute to.
Next up for United will be a home tie versus Middlesboro in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday night, and a chance for the likes of Memphis, Darmian and Carrick to return to the starting line up and stake a claim for regular starts.