Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said it is a “privilege” to manage his players as they completed the Premier League double over derby rivals Manchester City for the first time in a decade.
This thunderous encounter was a personal nightmare for Manchester City’s normally reliable Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson, who gifted Solskjaer’s side both goals in sharply contrasting fashion.
He allowed Anthony Martial’s routine shot to squirm under his body from a quick Bruno Fernandes free-kick on the half-hour and then, with seconds left, threw a clearance straight to Scott McTominay, who showed great technique to send a long-range finish, struck first time, into the net in front of a delirious Stretford End.
It is a win that leaves Liverpool – who now have a 25-point lead at the top of the table – requiring only two more wins to secure their first league title for 30 years and Manchester United only three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea, after their first derby league double since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
City hotly contested the free-kick, given by referee Mike Dean for a foul by Ilkay Gundogan on Fernandes, that led to Martial’s goal – although United also felt they were denied a penalty when Fred was booked for diving after tangling with Nicolas Otamendi.
Sergio Aguero had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR and even though City enjoyed the greater share of possession, United sealed a crucial win with McTominay’s strike to take their unbeaten run to 10 games in all competitions.
“It’s a privilege to be their manager,” Solskjaer told BBC Sport. “They give absolutely everything. They know they are all good players but they want to learn as well.
“We feel we are improving as a squad and a team. We feel the fans want us to do well and they see what we are doing, so it is getting better and better.
“But we are still fifth. We need points to catch Chelsea and Leicester, so need to keep plugging away.”
Solskjaer sensing top-four finish
Man Utd 2-0 Man City: ‘It’s a privilege to be manager of this young squad’ – Solskjaer
The jubilant scenes and the sound of his name echoing around Old Trafford at the final whistle will have been music to the ears of Manchester United manager Solskjaer.
The Norwegian, still to convince many of his suitability for the giant task of turning Manchester United’s fortunes around, has now enjoyed three wins over Pep Guardiola and Manchester City this season – and this was surely the most satisfying day of the season at ‘The Theatre Of Dreams’.
United may still be light years away from the glory days of old but victories such as this sustain hope, and the atmosphere inside Old Trafford as Solskjaer’s side first held on to their advantage and then sealed the win was reminiscent of days gone by.
Manchester City may have enjoyed the greater share of possession but United showed great resilience and always carried a threat on the break.
Fernandes once again confirmed what a shrewd piece of business his signing was from Sporting Lisbon – although why wait so late in the window to sign him? – and why he is already a hero to United’s fans.
The Portuguese has that touch of class and creativity while United had another outstanding performer in defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who won his battle with Raheem Sterling as he hounded the England star for 90 minutes and beyond.
Manchester United, who have looked off the top four for so much of the time this season, are now right in the fight and credit must be given to the manager who has helped fashion this impressive run.
“We feel we are improving all the time. We know we lack one, two, three players to be considered a title contender and some experience,” said Solskjaer. “We are just going to start talking about going up the table, getting more points.
“Chelsea and Leicester are too far ahead for my liking.”