Juan Mata’s second-half strike proved enough to book Manchester United’s place in the EFL Cup quarter-finals with victory over holders Manchester City at Old Trafford.
The Spaniard’s intelligent finish soon after the break ensured the Reds exacted revenge for last month’s defeat to City in the Premier League by taking the bragging rights in a lively 173rd Manchester derby at the Theatre of Dreams.
The Reds will now face fellow top-flight side West Ham United – as they did in the last eight of the FA Cup on the way to lifting the trophy last season – at home next month.
Jose Mourinho didn’t opt for wholesale changes as he did in the last round against Northampton, making four changes from Sunday’s four-goal defeat at Stamford Bridge as Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick and Mata came in for Chris Smalling, the injured Eric Bailly, Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard.
In contrast, opposite number Pep Guardiola fulfilled his promise to rotate, with nine alterations for the second round in a row after their success at Swansea last month – only captain Vincent Kompany and Leroy Sane kept their places from the draw with Southampton last weekend.
As they did at Old Trafford last month, City began in a menacing mood and, within the first minute, Kelechi Iheanacho almost scored for the second successive derby but couldn’t direct his close-range header on target from a Jesus Navas cross.
The visitors continued to threaten and claimed for a penalty on 10 minutes when Aleix Garcia stumbled in the box under pressure from Reds skipper Carrick but referee Mike Dean ignored the appeals.
United struggled to trouble the City defence early on but Zlatan Ibrahimovic caused panic with a 20-yard free-kick, which deflected behind for a corner, after Mata was brought down by Nicolas Otamendi.
The lively affair many were hoping for under the floodlights began to materialise as the first half wore on, with Iheanacho and Antonio Valencia both receiving yellow cards for strong challenges, but both teams lacked the cutting thrust in the final third to open each other up.
Ibrahimovic saw a shot deflect off Otamendi over the crossbar after Shaw combined well with Marcus Rashford, who moments later found his route to goal blocked by Pablo Maffeo after momentarily escaping clear of the City defence.
At the other end, Iheanacho then looked to have a similar clear run at goal after Sane seized upon Daley Blind’s stray pass but Rojo charged across to make a fine intervention and bail out his team-mate as neither side could make the breakthrough in a closely-contested opening 45.
Possession: United 52% City 48%
Shots: United 3 City 2
Shots on target: United 0 United 0
Corners: United 3 City 1
After both goalkeepers had precious little to do in the first half, City keeper Willy Caballero made a stunning save to push Paul Pogba’s low effort onto the post after the Frenchman was played in by Ibrahimovic.
But the Reds continued to apply pressure and got the decisive opening goal nine minutes after the break. Ibrahimovic’s cutback from the left evaded Ander Herrera who collided with Fernando and, as the Reds screamed for a penalty, Mata kept his composure to stroke home into the bottom corner.
City injected additional firepower by introducing Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero in place of Sane and Nolito; however, it was the Reds who probed in search of a second goal as Rashford’s pace caused problems before he was withdrawn late on.
The visitors pursued an equaliser in the closing stages but the closest they came was when Aleksandar Kolarov, who replaced Kompany at half-time for the visitors, fired a free-kick over the crossbar from 25 yards.
Pogba almost gave the scoreline a more comfortable look in stoppage time when racing through the middle from Carrick’s pass but Caballero was alert to the danger.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as the sides’ last League Cup showdown in 2010 but United, who return to Premier League action against Burnley on Saturday, will take confidence and satisfaction from knocking out their fierce rivals at the end of a tough run of four games in the space of 10 days.
Possession: United 48% City 52%
Shots: United 8 City 5
Shots on target: United 2 United 0
Corners: United 4 City 3
United: De Gea; Valencia, Blind, Rojo, Shaw; Carrick (c), Herrera; Mata (Schneiderlin 73), Pogba, Rashford (Lingard 81); Ibrahimovic. Subs not used: Romero, Darmian, Young, Fellaini, Memphis.
Booked: Valencia, Pogba, Ibrahimovic
City: Caballero; Maffeo, Otamendi, Kompany (c) (Kolarov 45), Clichy; Fernando, Garcia; Nolito (Aguero 71), Navas, Sane (Sterling 63); Iheanacho. Subs not used: Gunn, Adarabioyo, Gundogan, Fernandinho.