By Simon Evans
(REUTERS)-Runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City moved 11 points clear at the top after a 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in their derby clash on Sunday.
The victory means City are the first team to win 14 consecutive English top-flight games in the same season. The result ended United’s run of 40 home games unbeaten in all competitions.
City’s lead over second-placed United means the title is now theirs to lose and, while Pep Guardiola’s side did not provide a classic display of their manager’s attractive passing football, they showed they have the grit as well as the class to come through the toughest challenges.
Jose Mourinho’s team selection suggested United’s manager was intent on playing expansively, with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford chosen as wide support to central striker Romelu Lukaku.
But United struggled to get any of their forward players involved as City dominated possession. Mourinho’s team were let down by poor passing and struggled to keep the ball.
Gabriel Jesus, playing as the lone central striker with Sergio Aguero on the bench, had an early opening but shot tamely straight at United keeper David De Gea, as did Raheem Sterling when he wriggled some space.
City’s dominance was rewarded in the 43rd minute although the breakthrough was not a product of clever passing but sloppy defending from United at a set-piece.
Romelu Lukaku failed to clear Kevin De Bruyne’s inswinging corner and the ball fell to David Silva, who was played onside by Ashley Young. The Spaniard gratefully hooked the ball home.
Poor defending at the other end allowed United to get level before the break.
Marcos Rojo hit a hopeful diagonal cross into the City box but Nicolas Otamendi misjudged a header, Fabian Delph hesitated and Marcus Rashford pounced on the loose ball and drove low past Ederson.
At the break, City were forced to replace skipper Vincent Kompany with midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, a switch that meant Brazilian Fernandinho moved back into the defence.
United were also forced into a change with Marcus Rojo, who had suffered a head injury, replaced by Swedish centre half Victor Lindelof.
City restored their lead nine minutes into the second half after another piece of poor defending.
Silva whipped a free-kick into the box and Lukaku, who had a derby to forget, drove an attempted clearance into the back of team mate Chris Smalling. The ball looped to Otamendi who, making amends for his earlier mistake, showed great athleticism to volley home on the half-turn.
Guardiola shored up his back line by bringing on defender Eliaquim Mangala for Jesus and allowing Fernandinho to go back into his usual role in the holding midfield position.
City had keeper Ederson to thank for the three points after he produced a superb double save at close range six minutes from the end to keep out efforts from Lukaku and Juan Mata.