The two Manchester clubs rounded off their UEFA Champions League group campaigns in contrasting styles last night, with City emerging with a win from an entertaining encounter against Hoffenheim and a much-changed United team slumping to a 2-1 defeat in Valencia.
With both of these Premier League sides having already qualified for the last 16, little was riding on these glorified dead rubbers – though Jose Mourinho’s troops, it transpired, could have unexpectedly sealed top spot in Group H with a victory.
We round up all the goals, assists, team news, Fantasy talking points, manager quotes and injury news from the matches at the Etihad and the Mestalla on Wednesday evening.
Manchester City 2-1 Hoffenheim
- Goals: Leroy Sane (£9.5m) x2
- Assists: Gabriel Jesus (£10.1m), Raheem Sterling (£11.6m)
The good news for owners of Leroy Sane (£9.5m) and Raheem Sterling (£11.6m) is that both wide midfielders once again produced performances full of positivity and attacking intent last night.
The not-so-good news, of course, is that the premium pair lasted 90 minutes of what was an effectively meaningless contest, less than three days before City take on Everton in the Premier League.
Riyad Mahrez (£8.5m) watched this one from the bench and the Algerian’s circa 200,000 FPL owners must fancy his chances of starting against the Toffees on Saturday afternoon, having had a full week off to recover from the 2-0 defeat at Chelsea.
Since the resumption of play after the November international break, Sane has started all six of City’s matches: that’s half a dozen appearances in the space of 19 days.
The assumption that the Germany international would become more prominent in Guardiola’s first-team plans because of Benjamin Mendy‘s (£6.2m) absence has certainly panned out, though a rest is surely imminent for the in-form winger.
It may, of course, transpire that a benching will come in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday instead, and Sane certainly didn’t show any signs of fatigue in an end-to-end spectacle against City’s German opponents on Wednesday.
Sane levelled the scores at 1-1 just before the interval with a superb free-kick, before grabbing his second of the evening on the hour when finishing off a rapid breakaway move.
Guardiola was asked about Sane’s performance after the match:
Really proud. I am a lucky guy. But I’m not a lucky guy to [just] have Leroy – I have many.
The game opened up in the second half, with Sane, Sterling and Bernardo Silva (£7.5m) contriving to mess up a three-on-one counter-attack just minutes before Sane scored the match’s winner.
The energetic Sterling, who was handed a rest in the Gameweek 15 win over Watford a week earlier, was just as conspicuous in City’s attacks, registering four key passes and three shots – the best of his chances being something of a sitter, provided to him by Phil Foden (£4.6m).
Guardiola had this to say on Sterling after the game:
Top. Unfortunately, the finishing or last pass (wasn’t there) but he is young. He will improve. His performance was excellent.
Sane and Ilkay Gundogan‘s (£5.4m) set-piece deliveries also caused plenty of problems, with Gabriel Jesus (£10.1m) and Nicolas Otamendi (£6.1m) striking the woodwork with headed attempts and John Stones (£5.3m) forcing visiting goalkeeper Oliver Baumann into a save from another Gundogan delivery.
Gundogan was perhaps the pick of City’s central three midfielders on a quiet night for Bernardo, while Foden drew praise from his manager after the game following a fine performance alongside his more senior colleagues:
Second half, the team was much better. Not just Phil but in general over 90 minutes, and Phil was outstanding.
I never had doubts. The quality he has with the ball… he looks skinny, but he is really strong. He is a huge talent. England has a diamond.
It’s not easy to play in the big clubs, to play with David (Silva), Kevin (De Bruyne), Bernardo (Silva). He is incredible, in training sessions every day… he has had minutes and will have in the future.
Against German teams, it is so demanding, but he played like a man.
Stones was deployed at right-back as Guardiola stuck with his customary 4-3-3 – Stones tucking inside to form a three-man central defence when left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko (£4.7m) bombed forward – but the England defender struggled in his role and was replaced at the break.
It transpired that the decision wasn’t tactical, however, with Guardiola providing this injury update after the game:
He had a problem. He didn’t feel comfortable in the first half with his knee, it’s not a big issue but he didn’t feel comfortable.
Ederson (£5.8m) produced a sensational stop from Andrej Kramaric in the first half to highlight his own worth to this City side, also making a vital save from Reiss Nelson after the break.
Jesus, meanwhile, provided plenty of impressive movement up top but once again lacked a cutting edge in front of goal, highlighting just how much Sergio Aguero (£11.2m) has been missed over the past fortnight.
Manchester City XI (4-2-3-1): Ederson; Stones (Walker 45′), Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko (Delph 64′); Bernardo Silva (Kompany 85′), Gundogan, Foden; Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Sane.
Valencia 2-1 Manchester United
- Goal: Marcus Rashford (£6.9m)
- Assist: Ashley Young (£5.7m)
That substitutes Ashley Young (£5.7m), Marcus Rashford (£6.9m) and Jesse Lingard (£6.7m) were Manchester United’s best players on a dismal evening in Valencia said all there is to know about the Red Devils’ performance for much of this encounter.
Those three players indeed combined for United’s consolation goal late in the game, with Rashford nodding in Young’s cross after Lingard had kept the ball in play on the byline.
Jose Mourinho also seemed to confirm those three players would start on Sunday when asked whether that trio would feature against Liverpool:
You have only to find eight more.
My team improved really when I made the changes I didn’t want to make, which is a little bit of frustration because I didn’t want to play the three players that I played in the second half.
Rashford’s deflected, long-distance shot on 72 minutes was the first attempt on target United had registered all game and although they threatened thereafter, the England forward’s 87th-minute goal was the only effort on target the visitors recorded from inside the Valencia box all match.
Juan Mata (£6.2m) and Paul Pogba (£7.8m) admittedly wasted glorious opportunities when prodding wide from close range but this was a United performance devoid of inspiration, with some truly abject individual displays thrown into the bargain too.
Mourinho had made eight changes to his side from the starting XI that beat Fulham on Saturday, but not one of those players laid down a marker ahead of the trip to Anfield this weekend – though the United boss said the club’s injury crisis may mean that a few of his underperforming squad members might be needed on Sunday.
The United boss said:
I didn’t learn anything from this game. Nothing that happened surprised me at all.
We have lots of players that were not here today because they are injured. This is our squad, these are our players. Of course, they have chances to play Sunday.
Mourinho said his hand was forced by injuries, regarding Wednesday’s team selection:
[Chris] Smalling is injured. [Victor] Lindelof is injured. [Matteo] Darmian is injured. [Anthony] Martial is injured. [Diogo] Dalot is injured. The only two players I could bring and I didn’t were [David] De Gea and [Nemanja] Matic.
You are the first ones to make statements saying how many minutes Matic is playing, saying week after week he needs a rest. If he doesn’t have a rest when we’re already qualified, he will play until he explodes! Of course, it’s a normal option to leave him out.
With David, it’s a question to give a match or not to [Sergio] Romero.
Marcos Rojo (£4.9m), who particularly struggled at left-back, also picked up an injury during the game.
Last week, we had three matches with the majority of players playing all the time. I had no other options including a player like Rojo, who I expected to play today and give a rest to Young for example.
At half-time, Rojo is injured and is out.
Phil Jones (£5.1m) had a night to forget at centre-back, scoring an own-goal and being partly culpable for Valencia’s other strike, when his headed clearance fell straight at the feet of goalscorer Carlos Soler.
Andreas Pereira (£4.5m) and Fred (£5.5m) failed to make any sort of impression on rare starts, while Pogba was a long way from his best but was perhaps the pick of United’s midfield three – which is faint praise.
Romelu Lukaku (£10.7m) was anonymous too, failing to register a single shot on goal and recording the worst passing accuracy percentage of all of the outfielders on show.
Owners of Liverpool’s Fantasy assets have plenty to be encouraged about when United visit Anfield on Saturday, given last night’s display and the number of injury doubts Mourinho has going into that fixture.
Manchester United XI (4-3-3) Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Jones, Rojo (Young 46′); Fred (Rashford 57′), Fellaini, Pogba; Mata, Lukaku (Lingard 69′), Pereira.
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