Manchester City reached their fourth consecutive Carabao Cup final on Wednesday evening as they beat local rivals Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford.
John Stones was surprisingly the man to score first as he netted just after the half-time break. Fernandinho then blasted home minutes before full-time to rubber-stamp City’s progression to Wembley where they will now face Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur.
Here are three things we learned from Old Trafford:
City hunt the cup again
Since Pep Guardiola’s arrival at the Etihad Stadium in 2016, Manchester City have only failed to reach the League Cup final once, and even that came in the Spaniard’s first season.
In the campaigns since, City have been irresistible in the competition, lifting it on three consecutive occasions, giving them the reputation as the League Cup specialists. As a matter of fact, they have not failed to progress through a single League Cup tie ironically since a 1-0 reverse at the hands of Manchester United back in October 2016.
With their win at Old Trafford booking yet another final place and continuing that stunning record, it will certainly not be a surprise to see them lift the trophy once again in April. Only Liverpool in the past have managed to win four consecutive League Cups, with Guardiola’s men now sitting at odds of 1/2 with the Betfair Exchange to overcome Tottenham Hotspur and repeat that feat.
Offside flag denies entertaining opening half
Whilst on paper, it wasn’t the most entertaining first-half at Old Trafford with neither side getting on the scoresheet, the ball was actually in the net on three occasions before the break. Each time, the scorer was denied by the offside flag.
First, the Red Devils were frustrated that Stones’ unfortunate own-goal was chalked off for Marcus Rashford being offside earlier in the move. Guardiola’s men then scored twice through a smartly taken strike from Ilkay Gundogan and a clinical finish from Phil Foden. They were also adjudged offside by the linesman and while of course the decisions were correct from both the referee and VAR, it was a shame that supporters were denied an extremely entertaining opening period.
Stones steps up City recovery
With Manchester City having signed two centre-backs in the summer in the form of Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias, whilst having Aymeric Laporte at the club, the likelihood of Stones’ career at the club continuing beyond the current season looked remote. His renaissance at the Etihad Stadium in recent months has been highly impressive though.
The English defender had played the full 90 minutes in six out of the last seven matches in the league before Wednesday evening’s game, forging an extremely strong partnership with Dias. In that time, Guardiola’s men had only conceded one goal, that coming late on in the 3-1 loss against Chelsea.
At Old Trafford in particular, Stones put in another highly impressive defensive showing and limited the Red Devils to rare opportunities. The 26-year-old produced six defensive actions throughout the game in all, with only Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and teammate Dias producing more than him. If Stones can keep up those performance levels throughout the remainder of the season then Guardiola is really going to have a defensive headache when Laporte is back in action. That aspect bodes extremely well as City attempt to continue their challenge on all footballing fronts.
Manchester United: Henderson (7); Shaw (6), Maguire (6), Lindelof (5), Wan-Bissaka (6); McTominay (5) (Greenwood (5), 75′), Fred (6) (van de Beek (N/A), 88′), Pogba (6); Fernandes (6), Martial (6), Rashford (6).
Manchester City: Steffen (6); Zinchenko (6), Dias (7), Stones (8), Cancelo (7); Fernadinho (7), Gundogan (6), De Bruyne (6); Sterling (6), Foden (6), Mahrez (6) (Rodri (N/A), 79′).
Goals: Stones (50′), Fernandinho (83′)
Referee: Martin Atkinson
Yellow Cards: Fernandinho (48′), Fred (69′), Cancelo (78′)
Red Cards: N/A