Updated: Saturday, 25th January 2020 @ 8:25am

First blood United as City crumble in first-ever overseas Manchester Derby in Houston

First blood United as City crumble in first-ever overseas Manchester Derby in Houston

| By Jeremy Dunn

It was Manchester United who walked away victorious from the first ever Manchester Derby to be held overseas with a 2-0 win that saw City left for dead at the NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.

The stadium had hosted this year’s super bowl game and the pre match warm ups nearer resembled an American Football game rather than a Manchester Derby, with the lights of and teams walking out in spotlights to the roar of 72,000 fans as pyrotechnics and fireworks illuminated the night sky.

United lined up with a near full strength team in a 4-2-3-1 with both summer signings; Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof starting. City in contrast played in a 4-2-3-1 on paper but looked nearer to a 4-1-4-1 during the match.

Their new signings of Kyle Walker and Ederson both started yet City also had several youngsters in their line-up, with Patrick Roberts and Phil Foden making their first appearances for Guardiola in midfield whilst Tosin Adarabioyo played in central defence next to club captain Vincent Kompany.

From the line-ups then, United seemed to have a stronger team and unlike City, their younger players had been bedded into the team during the previous season. Furthermore, this was United’s third pre-season tour and City’s first.

The difference in the match fitness and readiness was obvious right from the off as the Red Devils seemed to be operating at near top gear whilst the Citizens looked a little heavily legged.

Of the two sides, United certainly had more positives than their cross-city rivals. They seemed better organised and disciplined, the look of a team that knew how to play together.

 Lukaku’s goal, the first of the match, highlighted everything the Belgian can offer; his pace and strength to beat Ederson to the ball as well as clinical finishing, scoring from a tight angle as the ball neared the touchline. He also cannoned a shot against the crossbar early in the second half and looked to be lining up perfectly with Paul Pogba all game.

Another star of United’s show was Marcus Rashford. The youngster calmly put away his chance on the edge of the penalty box, minutes after Lukaku had opened the scoring, before trying to recreate David Beckham’s halfway line goal against Wimbledon for the Red Devils, forcing Ederson to pull off a last ditched save.

Yet Henrikh Mkhitaryan was really the best performance of the night, playing in his preferred role at number 10 in the hole just behind the striker and able to pull the strings for creating United’s attack.

His assist for Rashford was a perfect example of this and the Armenian seemed to have at last been put in his strongest position by Mourinho after a slow start at Old Trafford. City seemed to lack creativity however, with Kevin De Bruyne and Samir Nasri creating one goal scoring opportunity each that both were unsuccessful.

The main positive for City fans from this game was the fantastic performance of 17 year old Phil Foden who forced two top saves from De Gea and pulled Chris Smalling apart twice with his darting runs and nimble footwork.

Under pressure from the board to develop more academy players in the first team, should Foden continue to replicate these performances then he might enable Guardiola a promising player for the future and can play a role in the team currently.

Ederson had a night to forget. Thought to be the answer to City’s goalkeeping issues, the Brazilian has a long way to go if that’s going to be the case.

He pulled off some good saves from ambitious long range United shooting and a great reflex stop from Phil Jones’ effort in the second half, but his poorly timed runs and ineffective command of his box struck a worrying similarity to Claudio Bravo last season.

He needs to improve and fast to save Guardiola another embarrassment of a signing.

Goalkeeper was not the only area of concern for the Citizens. Fernandinho was playing left back in the game as Guardiola still needs to sign one.

This need was emphasised last night as Fernandinho looked out of his depth against Rashford and City now must step up their pursuit of Benjamin Mendy to get this deal over the line before they travel to Brighton at the start of the season.

United though did not have a perfect night.

The Red Devils seemed too keen to shoot from distance and not move in closer to test Ederson, resulting in some easy saves for the Brazilian stopper and this will needed to be corrected as United aim to be more clinical in front of goal this season than they were last season.

Overall, whilst nothing except pride was at stake, United and Mourinho will have left City and Guardiola with a lot to think about as the as they move on to face Tottenham Hotspur on July 26.

As the score stands going into the season then, it’s advantage United.