First blood to Pep Guardiola in what promises to be an enthralling resumption of his rivalry with Jose Mourinho.
The Catalan’s City beat United 2-1 on their own patch in a thrilling game that saw the blue half of Manchester land an early blow in the title race.
Now that we can catch our breath, what observations can be made? What clues about the immediate future of the two sides did the game throw up?
Bravo’s baptism of fire
If anyone on the pitch looked to be feeling the heat, then it was Claudio Bravo – the summer signing handpicked by Guardiola for his sweeper-keeper role.
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) September 10, 2016
The Chilean had a thoroughly uncomfortable debut. His blunder offered United a route back into a game that was rapidly heading away from them and he looked a bag of nerves for the remainder of the match, playing himself into trouble with his feet on more than one occasion.
Granted it was a tough start for him but he will need to focus quickly to avoid being identified as a weak link by opponents in the coming weeks.
United’s midfield concerns
The first-half in particular saw United utterly dominated by their cross-town rivals. The second period was an improvement for the home team but they appeared all too-easily exposed by the quality of City’s counter-attacking play when the game became stretched.
What will possibly concern their manager most, was that his engine room players failed to keep pace when City broke.
On more than one occasion, United had to ride their luck at the back as Paul Pogba, Marouane Fellaini and co floundered further upfield.
Fernandinho the new Busquets?
Part of the reason for City’s superiority in the middle of the park was Fernandinho, who was simply superb.
The Brazilian has been an ever-present so far under Guardiola and his qualities came to the fore over the course of the derby.
Great win today and great team spirit.
Manchester is ???? pic.twitter.com/1B8OBM7iQV
— Fernandinho (@fernandinho) September 10, 2016
The only defensive-minded member of his side’s midfield three, he put in a man-of-the-match performance against United’s physical side.
The great Barcelona team that Guardiola built had an often unsung hero at the base of it’s midfield in Sergio Busquets. Fernandinho made a strong case for becoming a similarly crucial part of the tactician’s latest project.
The Rooney role
It is clear that Mourinho seems intent on keeping his promise that Rooney’s role in the side should be in the attacking third.
The captain started behind Ibrahimovic in a tactic that required drastic alteration at half time.
Interestingly though, the reshuffle by Mourinho saw Rooney move to the right-hand side rater than drop into midfield. The talisman had a frustrating afternoon but clearly has the manager’s trust in his attacking abilities.
Otamendi could be crucial
A much more physical-looking United, largely thanks to their summer additions, failed to dominate in the air as might have been expected before the game.
Nicolas Otamendi's game by numbers vs. Man Utd:
100% tackles won
4 aerial duels won pic.twitter.com/er6pHAaxfV
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 10, 2016
In no small part this was due to Nicolas Otamendi who put in a solid display at the heart of City’s defence.
The Argentine is more rugged than a typical Guardiola centre-back but seems to have established himself in his coach’s plans.
It will be intriguing to see if he can keep Vincent Kompany on the bench when the captain returns. His aerial prowess will also offer valuable protection to Bravo while he settles in.