MANCHESTER, England – Premier League holders Manchester City defeated Manchester United 2-0 on Wednesday to reclaim first place from Liverpool.
As if the normal drama of the derby were not enough, the match at Old Trafford took on special significance for its impact on the title race and because it was United’s first outing since a 4-0 drubbing last weekend at the hands of Everton.
With 35 matches played, City has 89 points, one more than Liverpool, and is in control of its own destiny.
City will host the Premier League trophy for a second straight year if they take all nine points from their remaining games, no matter what the Reds do.
United, besides looking for redemption after the debacle at Everton, needed points to sustain their fading hopes of a top-four finish to guarantee a berth in the 2019-2020 Champions League.
After conceding four goals to Everton, United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went with a five-man back line and entrusted the offense to Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard up front.
The plan worked well in the first half, disrupting the potent City attack and limiting them to one real scoring chance, a strike by red-hot Raheem Sterling that forced an impressive save from United goalkeeper David De Gea.
But the visitors were improved after the break and the United strategy collapsed in the 54th minute, when Bernardo Silva beat defender Luke Shaw and blasted a low shot just inside the near post, leaving De Gea with no chance.
Only the post prevented Sergio “Kun” Agüero from giving City a 2-0 advantage on their next possession.
With United visibly deflated, the second goal was only a matter of time and it came in the 66th minute.
Sterling carried the ball into the United half and released Leroy Sane, whose effort was the kind of shot that a De Gea in top form would probably have stopped.
City’s Pep Guardiola becomes the first manager in Premier League history to emerge victorious on three consecutive three visits to Old Trafford.
And City’s 11th straight league triumph on Wednesday was the seventh loss in 9 matches for United, who have 64 points from 35 matches and are 3 points out of fourth place.
The Red Devils got some help Wednesday from Wolverhampton, who thumped fifth-place Arsenal 3-1 to leave the Gunners just a point better than United.