The 183rd meeting between Manchester United and Manchester City was a derby unlike any other.
And it was unfamiliarto see a Pep Guardiola side set up so cautiously and, seemingly, playing not to lose rather than to win.
Throughout his managerial career at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and inhis four years at City, Guardiola has always been the aggressor.
He has taken his team to the most intimidating arenas in European football and always gone on the front foot, forcing his style of play on the opposition.
Of course, it hasn’t always worked. There have been some extremely rare and spectacular failures during his career, but Guardiola has often been more prepared to go down in flames – believing in his attacking approach – than compromise. Generally it has paid off.
But after being stung on the counter-attack by United in three of last season’s four Manchester derbies, the City boss opted for a risk-aversegame plan that led to one of the stalest of stalemates.
“We know we can have more intensity but we know that when you are not settled down properly, when you attack they punish you on the counter-attack,” Guardiola said afterwards.
“They are so fast, the quality they have, Man Utd. We would love to have more chances but when you review the chances we had, with Gabriel Jesus, with Raz Sterling with Riyad Mahrez.
“When you play without spectators, everything looks like a lack of intensity but on the sideline and I see the players have done incredible work.”
There were positives.
A sixth clean sheet maintains the defensive stability that was City’s biggest problem in last season’s underwhelming campaign asJohn Stones and Ruben Dias continued their impressive form.
It also brought an end to a run of four successive defeats away to so-called “big six” opponents as they kept a clean sheet at one of their traditional rivals for the first time in almost a year.
And they successfully stifled United’s counter-attacking approach, with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood seeing little sight of goal.
“I know my team, I know how we are and I know the physical performance of the players and to be solid is the start.We build from this,” Guardiola added.
The price they paid was a lack of adventure, with City short of options against a United side also playing with pragmatism andgetting numbers behind the ball.
United were stinging from their midweek Champions League exit and Kevin De Bruyne warned about a backlash from their rivals.
With pressure mounting on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, City lacked the ruthlessness that would have edged himcloser to the precipice and seen the “Noisy Neighbours” leapfrog United in the table.
Instead, City remain a point behind in midtable, having won just five of their 11 games and scoring 17 goals – exactly half the number they had at the same point last season.
Guardiola opted for two holding midfielders – Fernandinho and Rodri – against a side that have now won just one in six inthe Premier League this season at Old Trafford and scored just three goals – two of them penalties.
They would have had another had Rashford not been offside in the build-up to an attack that saw Kyle Walker clip him clumsily.
Referee Chris Kavanagh pointed to the spot, but the penaltywas overturned by VAR in what was the only awkward decision in a remarkably peaceful derby debut for the Manchester-born official.
“It’s a point, I would love to win but it’s okay,” Guardiola added. “It’s Old Trafford, we cannot forget that.
“It’s a tough opponent, they are physical and press and are so fast up front – it’s Man Utd.
“We lacked a little bit the chances to score but we were good.”
Source : goal.com