First half: dominant City, uncompact United
Two rival coaches against each other who have just arrived this summer to the bench of their own team. Both of them wanted to prove that his philosophy is better and more effective than the other one. Out of the question, Guardiola wanted to dominate the game this afternoon, whilst Mourinho tried to beat him with hyper-quick counter-attacks.
In fact, United’s game plan didn’t work at all. In theory, 4-2-3-1 defensive shape might be advantageous against teams which use forwards dropping back(aka Guardiola’s City) but none of defensive shape can be effective without necessary compactness. United didn’t manage to tighten City’s most important spaces, they had serious problems mainly horizontally, but vertically too.
As City had enough time and space to do their build-up calmly and effectively, backs weren’t afraid even to push a long ball behind Red Devils’ defence. In summary, their penetrative passes weren’t so effective, in this point United’s backs could take advantage from their physical benefits. By the way, the major part of Citizens’ attacks ran through the left side. Guardiola than realized that Valencia hasn’t got defensive abilities that Luke Shaw on the other flank, as the Ecuadorian has played as winger for a long time.
Even if City wasn’t so effective at the final third, they stayed in a dominant role during whole first half, they took the lead absolutely deservedly.
Second half: United changes formation, but nothing else
After switched in Ander Herrera into the place of Mkhitaryan, and having pushed up Pogba and Fellaini, Reds started the second half with a 4-3-3 formation with two centre men stepping up higher from the midfield chain. They managed to force some long balls thanks to their new pressing mechanism, but as their compactness get better just a little bit, it didn’t impresse the game so much.
In the last period of the second half, United pushed a lot of balls into the box, but they weren’t penetrative at all, just opened up space for City’s counters. In the major part of 2nd half, it was all about transitions, none of teams managed to having a dominant role. Of course, it was beneficially for Manchester City.
Mourinho’s United showed a poor performance on Saturday afternoon, their plan didn’t work for one single minute. City didn’t show either their most penetrative performance ever seen, but their effective domination in 1st half, they deserved the win. Guardiola beat Mourinho.