Manchester City vs. Manchester United score: Kevin De Bruyne shines in derby, City rebuild lead over Liverpool

MANCHESTER — Kevin De Bruyne put Manchester United to the sword at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, scoring two and providing another as Manchester City restored their six-point lead at the top of the Premier League with a 4-1 win.

Having struck twice in an absorbing first half — one in which Jadon Sancho kept the visitors firmly in proceedings —De Bruyne turned orchestrator in the second, teeing up Riyad Mahrez for a magnificent volley that killed this game off after 68 minutes. Even that was not enough for City, with VAR judging the Algerian to have been onside by the tightest of margins as he thumped in a fourth in added time.

United, meanwhile, will have an ever higher mountain to climb in their pursuit of fourth place. Having played three games more than Arsenal they still trail Mikel Arteta’s side, 3-2 winners against Watford earlier on Sunday, by a point. Dropping points against these sorts of teams is rarely a death knell for a top-four hopeful but the tame nature of their defensive effort could spell seeds of doubt at Old Trafford.

With Cristiano Ronaldo (hip) and Edinson Cavani (groin) both missing from the matchday squad, despite the latter having been involved in the last three training sessions, Ralf Rangnick was forced to make do and mend with what he had, deploying Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba at the tip of a side that was aiming to disrupt City high up the pitch.

Perhaps that is because the German understood how easy it would be for City if they got through to the United defense. Under the slightest pressure the right flank seemed to collapse, a quick give and go between Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva releasing the latter to cut back to the penalty area. Alex Telles had spotted the danger De Bruyne posed but no one closed him down in time to stop the Belgian from slotting home his 50th Premier League goal.

It felt like it might be the beginning of City slowly crushing United’s resolve. Not quite. Certainly the visitors spent a lot of time pinned back as the blue machine whirred around them but give the ball to them and they could slice up the pitch with devastating effect. All it took was an undercooked Grealish back pass. Look up five seconds later and Pogba was cruising upfield, waiting until just the right moment to slip in Sancho. The England international was similarly composed, letting the City defense retreat beyond him before he bent a shot into the far corner.

It was a high wire on which United were treading. When their transitions clicked there was space to exploit in behind but if City could cut the attacks off at source the defense looked all the more vulnerable. The hosts proved to be the beneficiaries of United’s commitment to get upfield quickly. Anthony Elanga tried to launch Bruno Fernandes over the top with a clipped pass. Instead it thudded against an unsuspecting Joao Cancelo. A magnificent flick by Phil Foden took him past Victor Lindelof and though his shot cannoned back off David de Gea, the ball eventually pinballed its way to De Bruyne.

City continued to probe into the second half, a hat trick for the Belgian looking the most likely outcome as he rifled through the United defense at will. It was all Harry Maguire could do to send De Bruyne hurtling to the deck with a clunky tackle as he shaped to burst past him in midfield.

De Bruyne would ultimately be the one to swing the contest decisively in City’s favor, though not with a goal on this occasion. His corner from the left was delivered right into Mahrez’s sweet spot, with the Algerian stroking home a half volley that flew through the crowd of bodies and into the bottom left. 

Any lingering fight swiftly vanished from United, though in truth it had gone earlier. They ended the second half without a single shot attempt across its 45 minutes, ground down by City’s excellence in a match that was about a faltering top-four push as much as local bragging rights. As if United were not humiliated enough, the game ended with Mahrez netting his second, smashing the ball into De Gea’s face as City secured the sort of convincing win that can add further ignition to their title charge.

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