Manchester City took the spoils in the 172nd derby after withstanding Manchester United’s valiant attempt to battle back from two goals down in an absorbing clash at Old Trafford.
Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho had given the Blues a two-goal lead in a first half that they dominated, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s super strike just before the break – his fourth in his first four league games – changed the momentum of the contest.
United were much the better team in the second period but, despite battering on debutant goalkeeper Claudio Bravo’s door, the equaliser would not come and it was the blue half of Manchester who took the bragging rights.
With both sides going into the game with 100 per cent Premier League records so far, the atmosphere before kick-off was unsurprisingly electric. But though Paul Pogba curled an early shot just over from 20 yards after a lightning break, it was City who bossed the rest of the half.
And in the 15th minute, the visitors went ahead. Aleksandar Kolarov’s long ball was flicked on by Iheanacho, in for the suspended Sergio Aguero, and De Bruyne beat Daley Blind to the ball before dispatching a low finish past David De Gea.
Bravo brought down Henrikh Mkhitaryan, one of two changes for the Reds along with Jesse Lingard, in the box, but the Armenian had already been flagged offside. It was a rare opening for Jose Mourinho’s side at this point and City doubled their lead nine minutes before the break to stun the majority of fans inside Old Trafford. De Bruyne rolled a shot from a narrow angle past a static De Gea, which hit the post and rebounded to Iheanacho, who had the simplest of finishes from close range.
By now, City were well on top but, three minutes before the break, Ibrahimovic gave the Reds a foothold. After Blues captain David Silva was booked for a heavy challenge on Antonio Valencia, the Ecuadorian’s resultant free-kick was spilt by Bravo and Ibrahimovic showed great technique to get on top of the bouncing ball and arrow a volley past two City defenders on the goalline. Game on.
The goal prompted a huge roar of encouragement around Old Trafford and United had two more chances before the break to get back on level terms. Firstly, Wayne Rooney picked out Ibrahimovic with a fine cross but the Swede could only head straight at Bravo from a tight angle.
Then a ball forward caused confusion in the City defence and Lingard took advantage, slipping the ball inside to Ibra, who had more time than he realised and hit a weak first-time shot that was cleared from just in front of the goal. But United went into the interval in much better spirits.
Possession: United 35% City 65%
Shots: United 6 City 6
Shots on target: United 3 City 2
Corners: United 1 City 1
Mourinho acted decisively at the break by making two substitutions, bringing on Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford for Mkhitaryan and Lingard respectively, with Pogba moving into the no.10 role. It took a minute for Rashford to make a promising contribution, as his cross from the left was volleyed over by Ibrahimovic inside the box.
Ibra and Marouane Fellaini were booked inside a minute of each other but the tide appeared to be turning and City boss Pep Guardiola was moved to introduce holding midfielder Fernando in place of Iheanacho.
Soon after, Herrera put pressure on a backpass to Bravo and, though the keeper dummied the Spaniard, he let the ball run loose and then collided heavily in the box with Rooney as the pair contested a 50-50. There were cries for a penalty but referee Mark Clattenburg waved play on.
United were now very much in the ascendancy and Rashford thought he had levelled with 20 minutes left, but his shot past Bravo had taken a slight deflection off Ibrahimovic, who was flagged offside.
De Gea made an excellent save from Fernandinho’s volley and then combined with the excellent Eric Bailly to thwart Nicolas Otamendi from the rebound as City looked to re-establish their cushion in what had become an end-to-end encounter.
De Bruyne was City’s danger man and struck an upright again, with De Gea beaten, after being played through by substitute Leroy Sane on the counter-attack, before Mourinho brought on Anthony Martial in place of the excellent Luke Shaw in a bid to force an equaliser.
But despite the best efforts of the Frenchman and his team-mates, plus five minutes of stoppage time in which the Reds piled forward and Ibrahimovic fired inches wide, City held out to claim the three points and inflict a first defeat of the season on United.
United: De Gea, Valencia, Bailly, Blind, Shaw (Martial 81), Fellaini, Pogba, Mkhitaryan (Herrera 46), Rooney, Lingard (Rashford 46), Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: Romero, Smalling, Mata, Schneiderlin.
Booked: Bailly, Ibrahimovic, Fellaini, Rooney.
City: Bravo, Sagna, Otamendi, Stones, Kolarov, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, (Zabaleta 90), Silva, Sterling (Sane 60), Nolito, Iheanacho (Fernando 53). Subs not used: Caballero, Clichy, Garcia, Navas.
Booked: Silva, Fernandinho.
Possession: United 40% City 60%
Shots: United 14 City 18
Shots on target: United 3 City 6
Corners: United 4 City 4