Monday, January 18, 2021

5 Talking Points: Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City Carabao Cup Semi-final

Manchester City comfortably defeated Manchester United by 0-2 to progress to the finals of the Carabao Cup. A goal each from John Stones and Fernandinho aided City to qualify in their fourth consecutive Carabao Cup final. Soon, they will meet Jose Mourinho-led Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley to decide on who is the ultimate winner of the highly coveted trophy.

Without further adieu, let’s dig deeper and understand the five talking points from the game:

5) Semi-final frustration continues for the Reds

A team as big as Manchester United is known for winning silverware. But, somehow the club has been continuously losing the semi-finals. With today’s defeat through the hands of their arc rivals, Man United has lost four semifinals on a trot. Last season itself, the Red Devils lost to Man City, Chelsea, and Sevilla in the Carabao Cup, FA Cup, and Europa League respectively. They really need to break this hoodoo of the last four and start winning trophies. Time for some pep talk from Solskjaer?

4) First 45 minutes ran by offside flags

We believe that the most pivotal role in the first half was played by the offside flag. In the 2nd minute of the game, Marcus Rashford fired a shot against Zack Steffen only for the ball to rebound off John Stones which crawled back into his own goal. The assistant referee quickly raised his flag as soon as the ball went in to correctly mark Rashford offside.

First 45 minutes ran by offside flags

After just four more minutes, Philip Foden found İlkay Gündoğan lurking inside the six-yard box. The German international tapped the ball past Henderson but soon his celebration was cut short due to the assistant’s offside flag. Just like Rashford earlier, Gündoğan too was marginally offside.

For the third time in the game, the assistant referee correctly raised his flag to rule Foden offside when he put the ball back into the net in the 24th minute. All three decisions were checked by VAR. We wonder what could have been the outcome of the game if there was no VAR and had the referee failed to spot any of the offsides.

3) John Stones’ Redemption

John Stones' Redemption

Manchester City spent a whooping £47.5 million on John Stones in 2016 to bring him at Etihad stadium. He found himself at the fringes of the squad in the last two years. After the arrival of Ruben Diaz and Nathan Ake this summer, many pundits tipped John Stones to find a new club. But, the England international stood his ground and fought for the starting spot.

It seems that his gamble has worked perfectly. His fortunes at the Blue corner of Manchester has changed. His amazing form has even kept Aymeric Laporte out of the first team. Stones has developed into a robust centre-back and his partnership with Ruben Diaz will give Pep Guardiola a reliable defense pairing.

2) Conceding from set-pieces

Manchester City didn’t have a lot of clear chances but they found a way to score not one but two goals. And, both of them came from set-pieces which United failed to clear. Scott McTominay conceded a needless free-kick on the left side of the pitch. Foden launched the ball into the box. John Stones quickly reacted and tapped the ball past Dean Henderson to break the deadlock.

The second goal was conceded in the 83rd minute when Fernandinho’s stunning drive found the back of the net. A poor clearance from Manchester United found the Brazilian midfielder at the edge of the box. His fabulous low strike from that spot gave no chance to the United goalkeeper to prevent the ball from going in.

1) Jose Mourinho vs Pep Guardiola

It is not the first time and surely not the last time when we see Mourinho vs Guardiola. Pep Guardiola has already won Carabao Cup three times out of the four possible. He will be eager to take that trophy number to four this season. The only issue for him is how to deal with his counterpart.

Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham has performed well this season though they are struggling in Premier League recently. Son Heung-min and Harry Kane have been in blistering form from the first matchday. It will be interesting to see how the partnership of Diaz and Stones will keep Son and Kane out of the game. Also, it looks like Manchester City are finally finding their feet this season. If their run continues, we know how difficult it can be for any team in the world to stop them.

Tottenham Hotspur is really keen to add a trophy to their cabinet this year but can they pass this final hurdle? The Carabao Cup Final is scheduled to occur in April. Hopefully, by that time we have a few fans, if not all, back at Wembley. A final with fans will add more sparkle to this classic rivalry.

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