Man Utd's Fightback Against Wasteful Man City Ensured Derby Lived Up to Pre-Game Hype

Ali Rampling
Nov 14, 2020, 5:00 PM GMT
Manchester United came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in the Manchester derby
Manchester United came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 in the Manchester derby | Michael Regan/Getty Images

Manchester United were trailing 2-0 at the break in Saturday's Manchester derby after Manchester City produced a stunning first half performance. They were slick, lively and inventive - and should have been home and dry after 45 minutes.

And yet come full time, United can feel a little disheartened that they did not claim all three points.

Kirsty Hanson levelled for United
Kirsty Hanson levelled for United | Michael Regan/Getty Images

This was the first Manchester derby of the season. It was energetic, chaotic and thoroughly entertaining.

City utterly dominated proceedings in the first half. Gareth Taylor's decision to select Laura Coombs, ahead of last season's star player Caroline Weir, and to position left back Alex Greenwood in the heart of the City backline, at the expense of the ever dependable Gemma Bonner, appeared to be an absolute tactical masterstroke as the Citizens confidently built from the back sliced through United's midfield.

Sam Mewis was typically outstanding, intercepting everything and anything and marauding forward with such purpose whenever she was on the ball. The USA international and Coombs ran the show from midfield, moving the ball around quickly and crisply. United could not cope with their intensity.

Full-backs Demi Stokes and Lucy Bronze were bombing forward and overloading with Georgia Stanway and Chloe Kelly to pen United in, and Greenwood was wreaking havoc every time she sent a corner in.

The impressive Kelly gave City the lead
The impressive Kelly gave City the lead | Michael Regan/Getty Images

It was from said delivery that City took the lead as United failed to clear and Kelly finished cleverly.

Wave after wave of City attack followed, Stanway wasting a particularly good opportunity after being played through by Coombs, but the visitors could not grab the all important second until the stroke of half time.

Coombs rounded off a thoroughly impressive display with an emphatic finish, completing a pretty perfect half for City.

United were 45 minutes away from suffering their first defeat of the season - and a pretty resounding one at that. But the introduction of Kirsty Hanson at half time proved key, with the Scotland international's willingness to press high forcing City's full-backs further back - just as City had done to United in the first half.

Heath pulled one back for United
Heath pulled one back for United | Michael Regan/Getty Images

The hosts capitalised instantly, forcing Bronze into a mistake as City attempted to play out from the back. Tobin Heath took advantage of the England international's lax pass with a sumptuous finish.

United levelled 16 minutes from time, Hanson grabbing a deserved goal by poking home from a corner at the second time of asking.

With the momentum well and truly swung, the Red Devils bombarded the City backline and could have taken all three points as the clock ticked down, but Lucy Staniforth's effort was cleared off the line by Stokes.

The result and performance was a good barometer for where both sides are currently at. Manchester City are still a work in progress with their new manager and new signings. Their first half performance was exceptional, as they played with the same zip and intensity as their FA Cup semi final win over Arsenal.

Both City and United could easily have won the game
Both City and United could easily have won the game | Michael Regan/Getty Images

But for all the flashes of quality, they were wasteful in the final third - just as they have been in draws with Reading and Brighton in the WSL. The Citizens had 23 shots, but only hit the target on five occasions.

United, meanwhile, utilised their ever improving strength in depth for the second time in successive weeks. Against Arsenal, Katie Zelem and Jess Sigsworth entered the fray and combined for Ella Toone's winner, while on Saturday, the introduction of Hanson was influential. Lauren James also came off the bench to great effect and captain Zelem remained an unused substitute - a reminder of the squad depth that Stoney now has at her disposal.

Hanson and James helped to inspire a terrific United comeback in a transformative second half display. It is a testament to the quality of the game that both sides can look back on Saturday's fixture with a tinge of regret at not taking all three points.