Manchester City Down Title Rivals Manchester United to Sit Pretty at Top
Manchester City surged 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League as Nicolas Otamendi's strike clinched a crucial 2-1 win at title rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
Nicolas Otamendi (Reuters)
Manchester: Manchester City surged 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League as Nicolas Otamendi's strike clinched a crucial 2-1 win at title rivals Manchester United on Sunday.
Pep Guardiola's side took the lead through David Silva's goal before Marcus Rashford equalised for United in first-half stoppage time.
Otamendi won it for City soon after the interval, giving the leaders a record-equalling 14th successive Premier League victory — matching the previous mark set by Arsenal between February and August 2002.
Jose Mourinho admitted the Premier League title race is all but over after Sunday. City moved 11 points clear of second-placed United. Mourinho felt Pep Guardiola's side rode their luck at Old Trafford, with Ander Herrera booked for diving after a tackle by Otamendi that the hosts claimed was worthy of a penalty.
But he conceded his old rival Guardiola is highly likely to lead City to the title. Asked if the race was over, Mourinho said: "Probably, yes. I'm pretty sure everyone is going to fight for points and try and reduce the distance, but the advantage is a very good one.
"Manchester City are a very good team and they are protected by the luck, and the gods of football are behind them. They are lucky, they have decisions in their favour."
Mourinho was furious with referee Michael Oliver's decision not to award a penalty for the Otamendi challenge on Herrera.
"My first reaction is I feel sorry for Michael Oliver because he had a very good match but unfortunately he made an important mistake," he said.
"The result was made with a big penalty not given. That would have been 2-2 with 20 minutes to go. It was a crucial mistake."
Mourinho was equally unhappy with the sloppy United defending that gifted City their goals.
"They scored two goals which were quite unbelievable to concede. Two bad goals," he said.
"We did enough to win the game? It depends on your perspective. They had more of the ball and apparently more control because they kept the ball more than us."
Guardiola told Mourinho to stop blaming refereeing decisions for Manchester United's derby misery against Manchester City.
"Last season it was the same, we won here and it was the referee. Today as well. Yesterday he spoke about the referee," Guardiola said.
"We are an honest team. We had 75 per cent ball possession, which means we wanted to play. We came here and did that."
City's substantial lead at the top makes them firm favourites for the title. But Guardiola isn't getting carried away and warned his players to forget dreaming of silverware because surviving the hectic Christmas period won't be easy.
"This win means a lot in the way we played for our confidence but in three days we go to Swansea in the winter time," he said.
"We are going to face a lot of difficulties. In December it's impossible to be champions but it's good for us."
While Guardiola was coy about City's title bid, he didn't miss a chance to take aim at the critics who doubted whether he would be able to succeed in England.
City failed to win a trophy in Guardiola's first season, but the Spaniard's purist principles are now reaping a rich reward.
"The personality to play here is what I want. We can play this way in England. People said we couldn't play the way we did in Barcelona in England but it is possible and we did it," he said.
"I knew that last season. Always I believed we could do it. Everyone can play how they want, that's why football is so beautiful.
"I'm happy to go to Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford and to beat them in this way."
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