Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
Bruno Fernandes was a central figure in the Manchester derby on Saturday afternoon, scoring a controversial equaliser to prompt a stunning Manchester United victory at Old Trafford.
United trailed to a Jack Grealish goal when Fernandes levelled with twelve minutes to play, after which Marcus Rashford snatched a winner to extend the Red Devils winning run to nine matches in all competitions.
The derby did not have the full compliment of Portuguese participants. Diogo Dalot missed the meeting for United having picked up an injury in midweek, while Rúben Dias is back in training at City but was not in contention. João Cancelo and Bernardo Silva started for the visitors, as United deployed Fernandes initially on the right side.
It was a match of few clear opportunities, but City gained control of the game towards the break and were dominant in the second half ahead of making a breakthrough with Grealish’s header. United, who had been forced to substitute a clearly unfit Anthony Martial and manage a knock to Rashford, looked out of sorts heading into the closing stages.
Yet the score was levelled in the 78th minute through a goal which has become the main talking point of the match. Casemiro played a pass into Rashford’s path but the England forward, perhaps knowing he was in an offside position, avoided making contact with the ball and allowed Fernandes to strike past Ederson.
Many would have expected the goal to be disallowed, such was the influence of Rashford, but the current rules suggest as long as a player does not touch the ball or prevent an opponent from gaining possession, he is not interfering with play. City boss Pep Guardiola and many in the British media expressed frustration with the law after the game, but refereeing experts insist the correct decision was made.
With City reeling, United stunned the champions by scoring again a few minutes later. Substitute Alejandro Garnacho brilliantly worked the ball across the face of goal for Rashford to convert from close range and continue his impressive scoring run. The win for United moves them just a point behind their local rivals.
“For us, the opponent doesn’t matter we always want to win the game,” Fernandes said on the pitch after the match. “It was an amazing comeback; great effort by the team. I said it before the game to the team: we look like a team now. Some time ago you could see we were sometimes a team, sometimes each of us looking a bit for ourselves. Now you see a proper team that works hard for each other, and you see that it pays.
Fernandes was named Man of the Match by BT Sports towards the end of the game, no doubt partly due to the importance of his goal. Asked if he gave Rashford a shout for the equaliser, Fernandes replied: “No, I think because I was facing the goal Marcus probably saw that I was in a better position. I didn’t know if any of us were offside or not, but there was nobody close enough to him to have an influence on the way their team defend. It is what it is, it’s a goal in the end and we’re really happy with that.
“That doesn’t matter for us. We have to look forward, because you can be closer, but if you don’t keep winning they can go. The mentality now has to be celebrating because it’s a big win for the derby but from tomorrow straight away our heads on Crystal Palace. It’s always tough to play there, so our focus has to be straight on that.”
By Sean Gillen