MANCHESTER, England -- Three points on Manchester City's 3-1 win over Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday at the Etihad.
1. City assert superiority over United
Manchester City asserted their dominance over Manchester United by returning to the top of the Premier League with a 3-1 win against their neighbours at the Etihad. Having lost top spot earlier in the day following Liverpool's 2-0 victory against Fulham at Anfield, City held off a brief second-half United fightback to claim all three points.
David Silva's 12th-minute opener, after Raheem Sterling had exposed Ashley Young on the City left, gave the home side an early advantage that they rarely looked like surrendering against a United team weakened by the absence of injured midfielder Paul Pogba. When City doubled their lead through Sergio Aguero on 48 minutes, Pep Guardiola's team looked set to record an emphatic victory over a poor United.
But Anthony Martial's equaliser from the penalty spot on 57 minutes, after substitute Romelu Lukaku had been fouled by goalkeeper Ederson, gave United a flicker of hope. It was always a faint chance that United would find a way back into the game, however, due to the lack of ambition and creativity in Jose Mourinho's team.
And City claimed a third to record the winning margin that their performance deserved when Ilkay Gundogan scored four minutes from full-time.
2. Mourinho's caution holds United back
Jose Mourinho is never going to be a coach who throws caution to the wind, but his starting lineup for this game gave City the encouragement to push United back from the outset.
Mourinho had picked a team to defend and play for a point. The loss of Pogba to injury did not help Mourinho, but by picking a midfield of Nemaja Matic, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, he denied his team any kind of attacking flair.
The front three of Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were basically asked to hurt City with their pace, but they were often too far detached from the rest of the team to make use of their attributes. Whenever they had the ball, there were huge gaps behind them and City were able to snuff out every United attack for the first hour of the game.
Pogba would have given United the ability to stretch the game, but without the Frenchman, Mourinho could have given his team more adventure and ambition by selecting Juan Mata. The Spaniard is often overlooked by Mourinho, but he can hold the ball, find gaps for his attacking teammates and provide the kind of invention that the starting team was so obviously lacking.
The lack of a truly world-class creative player in the United squad stands out when they are up against a quality opponent like City, but Mata is the best that they have and he should be used more often.
3. Fernandinho proving irreplaceable for City
Fernandinho is 34 next May and his age has left Manchester City scouring the globe for a suitable replacement. But City's scouts have so far failed to find a player capable of replacing one of the most important cogs in Guardiola's team.
City made a move for Fred last January, only to miss out on the Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder following his decision to make a summer move to Manchester United instead. Fred's slow start to life at Old Trafford has suggested that City had a lucky escape by missing out on the Brazilian because he is certainly no Fernandinho.
Fernandinho, who also made the move from Shakhtar, is the man who makes City tick. He is an accomplished destroyer, a player not shy when it comes to making the kind of tactical fouls that enable City to break up play and regroup. But Fernandinho is also more than adept at launching City attacks and breaking forward to test the opposition in the final third.
N'Golo Kante gets many plaudits as being the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League, but Fernandinho is equally impressive, and he has been doing it consistently for City since arriving more than five years ago.