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EFL Cup: United Beat City In Manchester Derby

Juan Mata Manchester United
Manchester United's Spanish midfielder Juan Mata celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the EFL (English Football League) Cup fourth round match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England on October 26, 2016. / AFP / Oli SCARFF / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

Juan Mata struck to win a tight Manchester derby as United knocked out EFL Cup holders City to reach the quarter-finals.

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The Spaniard pounced to drive low into the corner from Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s pull-back as United set up a home tie with West Ham.

City boss Pep Guardiola made nine changes to his side, who are now six games without a win in all competitions – his worst run as a manager.

The visitors were led by Vincent Kompany, playing back-to-back games for the first time since spring, and one enhanced by a formidable bench which added to the air of uncertainty over how this would all unfold.

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Jose Mourinho was humiliated at former club Chelsea on Sunday and needed a result against the bitter rivals from across the city.

A scan of the match program brought an unusual statement from Mourinho: an apology. Three times, in fact, he said “sorry” or even “extremely sorry” for the humiliating 4-0 loss away at Chelsea that had sharpened the focus even more on this tie.

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Yet again Henrikh Mkhitaryan didn’t make the squad, even though he had gathered with the rest of the players during their match-day preparations. There was also no place for the injured Wayne Rooney or, more worryingly for Mourinho, Eric Bailly, whose knee injury will rule him out for two months, with that absence prolonged further by his involvement in the African Cup of Nations.

Within 70 seconds of the tie there was a chance as Jesus Navas whipped in a cross and Kelechi Iheanacho threw himself between those makeshift centre-halves of Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo but could only direct his header over the bar. There was pace on the ball but Iheanacho should have done better from six yards out.

It proved an early sign, though, that City were far more fluent and comfortable. Michael Carrick was fortunate that he did not concede a penalty when he caught Aleix Garcia as the impressive 19-year-old Spanish midfielder ran on to a through ball.

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Finally, United gained a foothold. Juan Mata earned a free-kick three yards outside the penalty area but it was trundled weakly into the City wall by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which summed up the Swede’s contribution to the first quarter of the game, as did a wildly over-hit through ball for Marcus Rashford and a shot deflected over by Nicolas Otamendi which lacked its usual oomph. Even so, the fact Ibrahimovic was playing showed how high the stakes were for United.

United survived the late onslaught from their noisy neighbours and victory was United’s second in five matches, and only Jose Mourinho’s fourth win in 18 meetings with Guardiola.

The game was another reminder of City’s sloppiness in the final third that has haunted them in recent weeks and although their Catalan manager’s methods and philosophies look to be taking shape nicely, it seems to be the personnel that are his falling at the moment.

Once again, the likes of Sterling and Navas looked as though they froze on the big occasion and others seem like they can’t handle the pressure of having to deal with the ball at their feet in tight areas.

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Something tells me that the Manchester City squad will look very different in 12 months time when Guardiola has had chance to bring in his own players.

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