Belfast Telegraph

Hot Mata lifts the gloom at Manchester United with City victory

Man Utd 1 Man City 0

By Mark Ogden

Jose Mourinho may find Manchester a little more to his liking the next time he steps out of his hotel and strolls around his new home.

Having described life in the city as a 'disaster' earlier this week, it might just feel a little more like home after Juan Mata's goal secured derby victory over Manchester City and gave Mourinho the edge over Pep Guardiola.

Three days after being humbled on his return to Chelsea in a 4-0 hammering, Mourinho reclaimed his pride, and United theirs, by claiming victory in this hard-fought EFL Cup fourth round tie at Old Trafford.

They will now host West Ham in the quarter-finals.

United, the better side, deserved their win, which leaves Guardiola in new territory having now gone six games without victory as a manager for the first time.

Mourinho used his programme notes to apologise to fans for the defeat against Chelsea, but knew that the only way to make amends would be to deliver a positive performance against City.

Little has gone right for United since last month's derby defeat against Guardiola's team ended their 100 per cent start to the season and injected doubt into the heads of the players and manager.

Form has evaporated, injuries have begun to mount and Mourinho has begun to look old and out of time.

But form can flip in an instant and the morale boost of victory in this game, for both sides, would have a transformative effect.

Neither team were able to dominate possession in the first half and chances were few and far between after Kelechi Iheanacho headed a Jesus Navas cross over from two yards in the second minute.

Guardiola's team should have had a penalty eight minutes later when Michael Carrick tripped teenager Aleix Garcia in the 18-yard box.

Referee Mike Dean dismissed City's appeals, though.

But with Zlatan Ibrahimovic once again leading the line, United lacked pace and movement up front and their approach play was predictable and painfully slow.

Pablo Maffeo was containing Marcus Rashford on United's left flank and Mata was offering little down the right. As for Paul Pogba, the £89m midfielder was anonymous once again.

United had to wait until the 37th minute before they created a clear chance, but Maffeo reacted brilliantly to block Rashford's shot.

City responded, with Iheanacho breaking forward seconds later, but this time, Marcos Rojo produced the crucial block.

As the home team, United had not done enough to trouble City in the first half, but the half-time instruction from Mourinho appeared to have been for his players to step up the tempo and be bolder.

Rashford, so quiet in the first half, began to run at Maffeo and his pace enabled the United forward to carve out a chance for Pogba, only for the Frenchman to curl wide.

Pogba had gone close to opening the scoring seconds earlier.

Having allowed the ball to run across him, Pogba aimed a left-foot shot at goal, but goalkeeper Willy Caballero pushed it onto the post to deny United.

City, having lost captain Vincent Kompany at half-time, lacked their first-half assurance at the back and United continued to pour forward.

And the absence of the Belgian centre-half told on 54 minutes when Mata was allowed to pounce on a loose ball to break the deadlock.

Ibrahimovic was the creator once again, having outmuscled Nicolas Otamendi to break into the penalty area.

The Swede then played the ball inside, Ander Herrera and Fernando collided while attempting to reach it, but Mata ghosted in unmarked to guide the ball home.

United now had to decide whether to stick or twist.

Few Mourinho teams have played cavalier football to entertain fans, but United attempted to strike a balance between shutting the door and slamming it in City's face.

Ibrahimovic began to show his experience, holding the ball, using his head and instilling calm at key moments.

Carrick also gave Mourinho further evidence of his worth having been overlooked so often this season.

Guardiola threw on Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero in an attempt to chase the game late on.

But United held firm and Guardiola's winless run goes on.

MAN UTD: de Gea, Valencia, Rojo, Blind, Shaw, Carrick, Herrera, Mata (Schneiderlin, 72'), Pogba, Rashford (Lingard, 81'), Ibrahimovic.

Subs not used: Romero, Darmian, Fellaini, Depay, Young.

MAN CITY: Caballero, Maffeo, Otamendi, Kompany (Kolarov, 45'), Clichy, Fernando, Garcia, Nolito (Aguero, 70'), Navas, Sane (Sterling, 62'), Iheanacho.

Subs not used: Gunn, Gundogan, Adarabioyo, Fernandinho.

Referee: Mike Dean

Attendance: 75,196

Man of the match: Ander Herrera

Match rating: 6/10

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