What happened to Guardiola’s animators? Unrecognizable Man City in a boring derby

Man City has been enormously entertaining during their coach’s reign, but was cautious and pragmatic in his deadlock with Man Utd.

The 183rd match between Manchester United and Manchester City was a derby like no other.

It was the first play without fans in the stadium and they were sorely missed in a match that was desperately short of passion and energy.

And it was strange to see a team of Pep Guardiola arranged with such caution and, apparently, playing not to lose more than to win.

Throughout his managerial career at Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich and in his four years at City, Guardiola has always been the aggressor.

He has led his team to the most intimidating stadiums in European football and has always been in the lead, forcing his style of play on the opponent.

Of course, it hasn’t always worked. There have been some extremely rare and spectacular failures during his career, but Guardiola has often been more prepared to go down in flames, believing in his approach to attack, than to compromise. It has generally been worth it.

But after being attacked by United’s counterattack in three of four Manchester derbies last season, the City manager opted for a risk-averse game plan that brought him to one of the most stagnant points.

“We know that we can have more intensity but we know that when you are not well established, when you attack you are punished in the counterattack,” Guardiola said later.

“They are so fast, the quality they have, Man Utd. We would love to have more opportunities but when you review the opportunities we had, with Gabriel [Jesus], with Raz [Sterling] with Riyad [Mahrez].

“When you play without spectators, everything seems a lack of intensity but on the bench and I see that the players have done an incredible job.”

Pep Guardiola Manchester City GFX

There were positives.

A clean sixth sheet maintains the defensive stability that was City’s biggest problem in last season’s disappointing campaign, as John Stones and Ruben Dias continued their impressive form.

It also ended a four-game losing streak to so-called “big six” opponents who kept a clean sheet against one of their traditional rivals for the first time in nearly a year.

And they successfully put down United’s counterattack approach, with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood barely seeing the goal.

“I know my team, I know how we are and I know the physical performance of the players and being solid is the beginning. We build from this, ”Guardiola added.

The price they paid was the lack of adventure, with City without options against a United that also plays with pragmatism and gets numbers behind the ball.

United were resentful of their Champions League midweek outing and Kevin De Bruyne warned of a backlash from rivals.

With the pressure mounting on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, City lacked the ruthlessness that would have brought it closer to the cliff and seen the “Noisy Neighbors” jump United on the table.

Instead, City are still one point behind in the middle table, having won just five of their 11 games and scoring 17 goals, exactly half the number they had at the same point last season.

Guardiola opted for two containment midfielders, Fernandinho and Rodri, against a team that has now won just one of six in the Premier League this season at Old Trafford and scored just three goals, two of them from penalties.

They would have had another if Rashford hadn’t been offside in preparation for an attack that saw Kyle Walker hit him awkwardly.

Referee Chris Kavanagh signaled the point, but the VAR annulled the penalty in what was the only awkward decision in a remarkably peaceful derby debut for the Manchester-born official.

“It’s a point, I would love to win but it’s okay,” Guardiola added. “It’s Old Trafford, we can’t forget that.

“He’s a tough opponent, they’re physical and they push and they’re so fast up front – it’s Man Utd.

“We lacked a bit of scoring chances, but we were good.”

One point is not to be overlooked, but City are still a bit far from the entertaining and bold football that has underpinned Guardiola’s time and success in the Premier League.