By Niño Paulo Gacusana
Manchester United have been here before. They have vanquished more vaunted opposition than Manchester City, in more terrifying stadiums than the Etihad Stadium, in more tense matches than a derby.
But none of that matters today. They have stopped Manchester City in their tracks. Pep Guardiola’s side have not won the Premier League title yet.
Prior to the match, Jose Mourinho got into Guadiola’s head. That “second place” quote must have messed up whatever Pep wanted to do. Jose silenced the Etihad. Just as they were celebrating at half-time, the Special One indeed had something left up his sleeve. Pep did his own psychological wars after saying that Paul Pogba was offered to City. But Pogba had something else in mind.
Down by two goals at half-time, Jose must have squeezed out every bit of motivation. And wow, did it show. Pogba came out like a man possessed. Sensational.
If this was any other team, they would have folded. Against the team that is considered the best bet outside of the two Spanish clubs to win the Champions League, at that team’s home ground, going down 2-0 would have been next to impossible.
But, no. This is Manchester United.
Before United’s opening goal, City were threatening to blow the match wide open. Going 3-0 down would have been too much, even for United. But the Citizens wasted chance after chance. Then, after City hit the woodwork, Alexis Sanchez crossed to Ander Herrera who made an otherworldly chested pass to Pogba, who was able to escape Ederson and score.
Just two minutes later, Sanchez crosses the ball towards the box and met the Frenchman’s head for a match-tying goal.
Suddenly, Paul Pogba’s transfer value skyrocketed.
Sanchez was having a wonderful second half by this point. He found Chris Smalling snaking through the box from a free-kick and the defender volleyed the ball towards the net.
But it wasn’t over yet. City are not leading the Premiership for nothing. They made another incursion and Sergio Aguero was in the penalty box and was brought down by Ashley Young. City screamed for a penalty. The Etihad wanted a penalty. But there was no penalty.
Aguero was not yet done. The Argentine again found himself with a sight of goal in the dying minutes, but his header was brilliantly tipped over the bar by David De Gea. Soon afterwards the final whistle sounded.
City have now conceded six goals in the last two matches, hardly the form of champions.
Pogba, Smalling, Sanchez, De Gea et al have stopped the City onslaught, at least for another week.