Gary Neville has admitted he was “shocked” at how brave Manchester United were during their 2-0 victory over Manchester City, with particular praise for their high defensive line.
Goals from Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw sealed an impressive win for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ‘s men, ending Pep Guardiola’s side’s 21-match winning run.
Whilst a goal inside the first two minutes helped put United on their way, Dean Henderson remained relatively untroubled throughout the 90 minutes, barring one relatively-routine save from Aleksandr Zinechenko in the first half.
Neville was particularly impressed at how high Harry Maguire and Victor Lindelof held their defensive line, allowing United’s midfield to press with more intensity to win the ball from City, with a shorter distance to cover.
“I’m shocked,” he told The Gary Neville Podcast.
“It wasn’t that United couldn’t win here today. They could and they’ve got a good record here over the last 12-18 months. But it was the way they won, the way they went about the game.
“They looked so drained in the last couple of weeks and you just think, ‘where have they got the energy to play the way they did?’ Yeah, they might sit back, they might ride their luck and get a goal on the counter-attack… but they pushed up the pitch. Maybe the goal helped them in the first minute.
“If you look at the build-up to the first goal, all the Man United players are compact, they’re tight together, the defence is up the pitch and they’re all around the play, picking up loose balls. And that was the same for the first 20 minutes of the game. United really good, the back four really brave.
“I’ve said Man United will not win this league unless the back four push up the pitch and feel a little uncomfortable with the space that’s left behind them. I think they’re starting to do it a little bit.
“There are signs in games where – today definitely – they were brave. Not just brave out of possession in pushing up but I thought they got on the ball as well, popping it into midfield. So many teams play against City and get pushed back into their defensive third and then when they get the ball they pass back to the keeper and run up the pitch and take the easy option. United didn’t do that today.
“Fifteen minutes before half-time City got on top and you thought ‘here we go, this is the pattern of the game to come’ but then in the second half, United were even better than the first, certainly in the first 25 minutes in the second half they were the better team.
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Manchester United secured a memorable 2-0 derby victory over Man City at the Etihad Stadium.
Bruno Fernandes and Luke Shaw scored the goals to clinch an unexpected, but empathic, victory for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s troops against the league leaders.
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“City had that one chance with Rodri where he hits the bar, but after that United dominated. Dominated on the ball, without the ball. They should have scored three or four goals.
“Anthony Martial had two really good chances, Marcus Rashford should have hit one where, to be fair, if he’d hit it he had a great chance of scoring.
“I’m a little delirious at this moment in time because I didn’t expect what I was going to see today. City have been outstanding this last couple of months.”