EPL

Jesus left cross as Solskjaer's United rise again for Manchester derby

By Sports Desk March 07, 2021

Anyone concerned that famous old fixtures like the Manchester derby are becoming devoid of emotion without supporters need only have looked at Gabriel Jesus' expression as Ederson just failed to keep out Bruno Fernandes' second-minute penalty.

Manchester City's Brazil forward netted a midweek brace in the 4-1 win over Wolves to persuade Pep Guardiola to keep him in the line-up on Sunday.

One of Jesus' big calling cards is his work rate, never one to shirk defensive duties that plenty of attackers dread.

Even so, haring back into his own area to clumsily foul Anthony Martial after mis-controlling a throw-in was taking that trait to unhelpful extremes.

Ederson got a firm hand to Fernandes' strike but could not prevent City from conceding their earliest ever Premier League goal at the Etihad Stadium. Jesus hit his head with his hands and howled in frustration.

At that moment it was easy to remember the eye-opening quotes the 23-year-old supplied during a goal drought last season

"Always I think, 'Wow I have to score' because I'm playing for a big club in big competitions with big players," he said.

"I think it happens with other players. I cannot talk about other players I can only talk about me when I'm not happy with me I want to shoot myself in the head because it's difficult for me."

If City's collective demeanour had been one of swaggering confidence fuelled by inevitable triumph during their 21-match winning run, it was never one Jesus could comfortably tap into.

He now has no goals in 10 derby appearances, but you won't need to tell him that. Sergio Aguero's expiring contract and the likelihood of City bringing in an elite forward replacement probably weighs heavily, too.

Nevertheless, Jesus led from the front as Guardiola's side sought to recover from a shambling start.

He was lurking when Harry Maguire cleared a dangerous Kevin De Bruyne cross – despite a patchy performance, City's midfield talisman created eight opportunities for team-mates – and a running battle before half-time saw the United centre-back booked for a foul on his opponent.

Jesus had two shots blocked and concluded a half he began clattering into Martial by clattering into the post in a vain attempt to convert Riyad Mahrez's cross-cum-shot.

In the opening stages of the second period, it was Jesus' lay-off that saw Rodri hit the crossbar. An equaliser felt close, but then the roof caved in on Guardiola's men.

Joao Cancelo has been a revelation in his hybrid full-back/midfielder role, but Martial and Marcus Rashford's tirelessly penetrative running offered a reminder he can still lack when it comes to purely defensive duties.

The Portugal international veered into no-mans land under Dean Henderson's throw, allowing the excellent Luke Shaw to start and finish a wonderful counter-attack.

For a spell in the middle of the second half, a defence breached only 19 times in the Premier League this season appeared to be wearing an 'all through traffic' sign. Cancelo was spared from himself as Kyle Walker entered the fray to shore up City's right-hand side before a dejected Jesus made way for Phil Foden.

The lead at the top of the Premier League is 11 points and this result – Solskjaer's third win in succession at the Etihad Stadium – should count for little beyond bragging rights. But Europe's elite will have taken note.

As City strained to get back into the match, ghosts of other Guardiola setbacks returned. Raheem Sterling, like Jesus still without a goal in this fixture, spurned glorious chances; players did not get shots away in a crowded penalty area; individual errors piled up and counter-attacking routes were left wide open.

A marque signing like Erling Haaland would solve some of Sunday's problems in the opposition penalty area, but little of what unfolded in other areas of the field.

Speaking at his pre-match news conference, Guardiola rejected any notion of a reality check perhaps being useful for his side. Such questionable logic is unlikely to feature in his forensic analysis of the game.

However, the last time United bloodied a City team bound for the title in April 2018, they did so after Liverpool had ransacked them in the Champions League quarter-finals. This lesson is at least more handily timed.

City's rock-solid look for large parts of this season was entirely absent and that will concern Guardiola, as it is their key point of difference from unsuccessful tilts at European glory.

Their collective loss of heads can only be partially explained by Jesus shooting himself in the foot.

Related items

  • Gollini aiming to be the 'future of Tottenham' after arriving from Atalanta Gollini aiming to be the 'future of Tottenham' after arriving from Atalanta

    Tottenham have confirmed the signing of Pierluigi Gollini from Atalanta, with the goalkeeper initially joining on a season-long loan deal that includes an option to buy.

    Gollini has played 89 Serie A games across the past five seasons for Atalanta, having joined the Serie A club after a spell in English football at Aston Villa.

    The 26-year-old had previously spent time at Manchester United earlier in his career, too, but it was at Hellas Verona where he made his first-team debut during the 2014-15 season.

    After representing Italy at youth level, he made his debut for the Azzurri when coming on as a late substitute in a Euro 2020 qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina in November 2019, though that remains his only international appearance to date.

    Now part of Nuno Espirito Santos' squad at Spurs, Gollini is looking forward to working alongside Hugo Lloris – but also plans to prove he is a long-term option to be the new number one.

  • Solskjaer signs new Man Utd contract Solskjaer signs new Man Utd contract

    Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed a new three-year contract, the Premier League club announced on Saturday.

    Solskjaer's United finished as runners-up to Manchester City in the 2020-21 Premier League season and reached the final of the Europa League, losing 11-10 on penalties to Villarreal.

    United confirmed the Norwegian's new deal contained an option for a further year.

    Solskjaer said: "Everyone knows the feeling I have for this club, and I am delighted to have signed this new contract. It is an exciting time for Manchester United, we have built a squad with a good balance of youth and experienced players that are hungry for success.

    "I have a fantastic coaching team around me, and we are all ready to take that next step on our journey. Manchester United wants to be winning the biggest and best trophies and that's what we are all striving for. We have improved, both on and off the pitch, and that will continue over the coming seasons.

    "I can't wait to get out in front of a packed Old Trafford and get this campaign started."

    Former United striker Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho on a caretaker basis in December 2018, after the Portuguese boss was sacked, and was handed the job on a permanent basis three months later.

    He committed to a three-year deal at the time and has now signed up to stay at Old Trafford.

    There is change afoot at the club, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward due to leave at the end of the year.

    Woodward said Solskjaer had justified the club showing their faith in him with the extension.

    "Ole and his staff have worked tirelessly putting the foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch," Woodward said.

    "The results of that have become increasingly visible over the past two seasons and we are all looking forward to seeing this exciting team develop further in the years ahead.

    "What is especially pleasing is the way this progress has been achieved with a blend of young, homegrown talent and top-class recruits, playing attacking football in the best traditions of Manchester United. We are more confident than ever that, under Ole's leadership, we are heading in the right direction."

    Solskjaer has yet to win a trophy as boss of the Red Devils, or reach a major domestic cup final.

    However, United have finished third and second in the league in his first two full seasons at the helm, guaranteeing lucrative Champions League income.

    They finished five points ahead of third-placed Liverpool last term, losing just six of 38 domestic league games, albeit that was not enough to be competitive with City, who took the title by 12 points.

    Their 2020-21 win percentage of 55.3 in the Premier League was the second highest United have achieved in a season since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013, beaten only by the 65.8 per cent they managed under Mourinho when finishing second in the 2017-18 campaign.

    The 73 league goals they scored was the highest United have tallied in the post-Ferguson era, with the team's 12 away wins in the top flight also the most they have mustered since the long-serving Scot stepped aside.

    In fact, United have not lost away from Old Trafford in the Premier League since going down 2-0 to Liverpool in January 2020 – that is a run of 26 matches.

  • BREAKING NEWS: Solskjaer signs new Man Utd contract BREAKING NEWS: Solskjaer signs new Man Utd contract

    Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed a new three-year contract, the Premier League club announced on Saturday.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.