Reaction and analysis
So congratulations to Manchester City; commiserations to Manchester United. It’ll be City v Spurs at Wembley in late April ... hopefully with fans in situ, fingers crossed. Thanks for reading this MBM. Stay safe, and nighty night.
Pep Guardiola, wearing a LEGEND BELL t-shirt, talks to Sky Sports. “This is for him, for his family. This person helped to build something special for this club. It is an incredible victory for us, to beat United away, to reach the final, and of course this is for him. The team is ready. It was an outstanding performance. We were tired, they had two more days off to rest, but we achieved something incredible. I know the Carabao Cup is not the Champions League, but four times in a row to reach the final is incredible. I’m so impressed by the boys. The final is not next week. Tottenham is a top, top team but we will have time to think about it.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer speaks to Sky. “City can score many great goals and you can accept that. But when you concede two set-piece goals, simple ones we should have cleared, you are very disappointed. We were just not good enough in those moments. We didn’t do enough to win the game, didn’t create enough big chances ourselves, we didn’t have the extra finesse in the games we’ve had in the league lately. We played against a very good team, they played well, and when they play well you have to play really well to beat them. That’s just the reality of where we’re at. We were just lacking that little bit. They deserve it. But we are getting closer. This is a much better version of Man United than a year ago. That’s positive, but that’s not enough. It’s not psychological, you meet good teams in semis and we just didn’t have enough. They are probably the best team in England. We wanted a final to look forward to, but it’s not going to happen. There are loads of things to play for.”
The managers will be speaking soon. But while we wait for that, Jamie Jackson’s report has landed ...
City’s goalscoring hero John Stones speaks to Sky Sports. “I’d like to send our condolences from everyone in the dressing room to Colin Bell and his family. How we played today was a reflection of him. A great moment for us, and I’m sure he’s looking down on the game today. Another final and another great occasion, and a derby won against a top team. They caused us problems but we dealt with them and had so many chances. Set pieces are vital in big games and it was good to get something on it.”
Manchester City celebrate their victory with great feeling. A huge team huddle, followed by backslaps and hugs all round. They’ll face Tottenham Hotspur in the final, to be played on Sunday 25 April, all going to plan. If they win that, they’ll equal Liverpool’s record of eight League Cup victories, as well as their record of four consecutive wins, set all the way back in the early 1980s. More history there to be written by Pep Guardiola’s remarkable side, who have rediscovered their form in some style. But let them enjoy tonight for now: another derby win, and a lovely way to say farewell to the great Colin Bell.
FULL TIME: Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City
City reach their fourth League Cup final in a row! They were the better side and deserve their reward. A huge grin plays across Guardiola’s face. His opposite number, a grim-faced Solskjaer, walks off to contemplate a fourth semi-final defeat in a row.
90 min +2: De Bruyne curls the resulting free kick into the mixer from the right. Nobody gets near it, but it doesn’t really matter now.
90 min +1: Shaw stress-tests the referee’s patience a bit too vigorously, yanking Sterling to the floor. He’s booked.
90 min: Three extra minutes separate Manchester City from yet another League Cup final.
88 min: Shaw is doing his level best to goad his old foe Cancelo into a reaction that would earn him a second yellow. A couple of sly shoves in the chest, just on the right side of legality, as they compete in a tight space. Cancelo, who snapped fairly easily earlier, does well to keep his cool.
87 min: Fred is replaced by the lesser-spotted Van de Beek.
85 min: Martial tries to flick the ball around Dias and claims a penalty for handball, but again the referee shows no interest whatsoever. It looked a desperate shout.
84 min: City celebrated that goal in the grand style. United had been asking a few questions, but that was some response. Guardiola beams broadly. Yet another League Cup final is within touching distance now.
GOAL! Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City (Fernandinho 83)
De Bruyne has a dig from the right of the D. The ball’s deflected out for a corner on the right. De Bruyne takes. Wan-Bissaka clears, but not with any power. The ball drops to Fernandinho, just to the left of the D. He meets it sweetly, threading a sensational fizzer into the bottom left, a flat-footed Henderson left with no chance!
81 min: Greenwood garrinchas in from the right and nearly dribbles into shooting space. Dias intercepts, just in time, and City launch a counter through Sterling and De Bruyne, the latter crossing to nobody in particular.
80 min: Fernandes hoicks a speculative long-range effort miles over the bar. A bit early for Hail Mary attempts like this.
79 min: City respond to United’s substitution with a change of their own: the quiet Mahrez is replaced by Rodri.
78 min: Cancelo is booked for going forehead to forehead with Shaw, who had knocked him over in the silent-movie style.
77 min: United have enjoyed 77 percent of possession during the last five minutes. City seem perfectly happy about it, playing United at their own game, hoping to soak it all up and break dangerously if the chance presents itself.
75 min: United make the first change of the evening, throwing on Greenwood in place of McTominay.
74 min: It’s a good spell for United, who push City back. Suddenly Martial dribbles his way through a couple of gaps down the middle and enters the box ... before falling to ground over a non-existent challenge by Dias. Martial claims a penalty; a furious Dias demands retribution for the dive. Referee Martin Atkinson takes the diplomatic route by waving both claims away. We play on.
72 min: Pogba busies himself down the left and pulls back for Fernandes, who attempts a curler towards the top right. He finds the top right of the Stretford End.
71 min: A reminder that both teams can make up to five subs, in a maximum of three batches. United are playing well enough for things to remain as they are, but time is becoming a factor.
69 min: Fred goes into the box for an agricultural swipe through the back of Gundogan. Meanwhile Peter Oh (56 min) scores an open goal: “No second coming, promise.”
68 min: Fernandinho has a shot that has enough welly to knock Maguire to the floor. The deflection loops harmlessly into Henderson’s arms. This doesn’t feel like it’s going to end 0-1. But who scores next?
67 min: Fernandes drifts in from the left and shapes to curl one towards the top right. He telegraphs his intention, and the resulting floater is easy meat for Steffen. United have responded well to falling behind.
65 min: Fernandes has a dig from distance, but sends his shot straight down Steffen’s throat.
64 min: Some space for Martial down the left. His low fizzing cross forces Dias to stick out a telescopic leg and poke the ball out for a corner. From the set piece, Maguire rises highest, but under pressure from Stones, can’t steer his header anywhere hear the goal.
63 min: Nothing comes of the resulting corner.
62 min: Fred has the ball stolen off his toe in midfield by Sterling. He feeds Mahrez, who opens his legs, strides down the middle, and powers a curler towards the top left. Henderson tips over spectacularly. Great football all round, with the exception of Fred, whose leisurely faffing nearly cost United dear.
60 min: Martial contests a high ball with Zinchenko in the City box. It clanks off Martial’s chest for a goal kick. Martial claims the ball has hit Zinchenko’s hand, but neither ref nor VAR shows any interest. Then City break upfield, Sterling nearly rounding Henderson on the right, only for the keeper to snaffle just in time.
58 min: Foden crosses from the left. Sterling heads towards the top corner. Henderson claws it out. From the resulting corner, the ball’s worked to Cancelo out on the right. He whips towards the far stick. Foden is a toenail clipping away from poking home. Goal kick.
56 min: “Stones has come up roses for City,” quips Peter Oh, because somebody had to. But no more, please. This is the one.
54 min: That’s the first goal United have conceded in this competition this season. But they’ve not been too shabby at recovering after conceding first this season - 18 points gained from losing positions in the Premier League illustrate that - so there’s no need for the hosts to worry quite yet. City are on top right now, though, playing with something of a swagger.
52 min: ... and nearly doubled, as Cancelo drops a shoulder to glide in from the right and pearls a vicious rising shot towards the top left. Henderson can’t get anywhere near it, but the ball shaves the paint on the top of the bar. So close! That would have been a screamer.
51 min: VAR sticks its unwanted neb in - of course it does, boys and their toys - but Stones wasn’t offside and the ball didn’t hit his arm. City’s lead is confirmed.
GOAL! Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City (Stones 50)
It’s dangerous all right. Foden curls it in. The ball makes it all the way to the back post, where Stones - who accidentally trundled the ball into this very net early on - trundles another one into the bottom right off his thigh!
49 min: Sterling busies himself down the left and is dragged back by McTominay. This free kick will be in a dangerous position, just to the left of the United box. City load it.
48 min: Fernaninho slides in on Pogba from behind, unnecessarily so. The City player receives a double-whammy of punishment: a yellow card, plus he’s clouted on the follow-through as the players tangle on the turf.
46 min: Shaw sends in a free kick from the left. Pogba flicks on. There are red shirts lining up at the far post, but Dias hoicks clear. A bright start to the second half by the hosts.
United get the second half underway on a chilly night. No changes made by either side. Yet. So will either side finally get round to scoring after three consecutive goal-free halves in Manchester derbies? “What happened to ‘deadly strikers’?” wonders Phillip Wainwright. “It’s a shame that modern tactics lean toward the absence of a ‘proper finisher’ in a team. Even Cavani, arguably someone under this umbrella in modern times, misses a hatful of clear/easy chances every season. See also Rashford, Martial, Bamford, Bergwijn, Sterling, Werner, even Son at Spurs... Is it just my rose-tinted view or did Van Nistelrooy, Henry, Shearer, Fowler etc not miss as many easy chances? I am an enormous fan of Rashford, on and off the pitch, but if him and the enigmatic Martial were to not miss as many easy chances, Man Utd would be an infinitely more dangerous prospect. Imagine if they had Kane/Son.”
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HALF TIME: Manchester United 0-0 Manchester City
Both teams have come close - there have been three disallowed goals plus one shot off the post - but it’s goalless at the break.
45 min: Fernandes has a chance to release Rashford down the middle, but uncharacteristically makes a royal balls of the through ball.
43 min: Rashford whips a ball into the City box from the right. It rears up and smacks Stones on the arm. Stones had been clumsily leaning into the ball, so there’s a big penalty shout, but his arm was just about in a natural position, and he gets the benefit of the doubt.
41 min: De Bruyne strides into space down the right. He hooks into the middle, looking for the so-far-ineffectual Mahrez. Wan-Bissaka volleys clear.
40 min: City continue to stroke the ball around, but they’re not forcing Henderson into too much action.
38 min: Foden has the beating of Wan-Bissaka down the left. He twice gets past his man in the space of a few seconds, though on neither occasion delivers the killer ball.
36 min: Fernandinho sends a glorious diagonal ball towards Sterling on the right. Sterling is in acres, and romps into the box. He just needs to jink past Shaw to make room for a shot from close range ... but clumsily runs slap-bang into the stationary defender, and doesn’t get the penalty he screams for.
34 min: Goal machine Scott McTominay tries his luck from distance. It’s not a bad effort, sent towards the top left from the best part of 30 yards out on the right, but always sailing a few inches over.
33 min: Rashford continues to look downcast after letting that chance slip by. He shouldn’t be too hard on himself; replays suggest he might have been a few millimetres offside, and he’d have been on the wrong end of one of those popular pernickety VAR decisions they have these days.
32 min: Fred, quarterbacking from deep on the left, launches towards Rashford, who has timed his break down the middle to perfection. If he brings the ball down, he’s one on one with Steffen ... but he can’t control and the keeper cleans up. The flag conspicuously stayed down.
30 min: Sterling one-twos with De Bruyne down the right. A crisp, quick exchange, and for a second it looks like Sterling will scuttle free into the box. But Shaw sticks to his shoulder like glue and hooks away brilliantly.
28 min: The first lull of an entertaining evening. Both teams deserve to take their breather.
26 min: Rashford sashays in from the right and looks to curl powerfully across Steffen and into the bottom left. That might have been going in, you know, but Dias sticks out a leg and deflects wide right of goal. At the resulting corner, Maguire flicks a weak header wide left, United having tried that thing with everyone at the near post again.
24 min: Zinchenko scoops a pass down the left touchline to release Foden, Wan-Bissaka beaten all ends up. Foden is free on goal! He dribbles into the box before calmly slotting between Henderson’s legs. But for the third time in the game, the goal is disallowed for offside. Foden went far too early. The flailing Wan-Bissaka will be a relieved man.
23 min: ... nothing of consequence happens.
22 min: City slow it down with some sterile centre-circle stuff. Then suddenly they up the tempo, Fernandinho sweeping a pass down the right for De Bruyne, who wins a corner. At which ...
20 min: United commit a few players forward, and nearly pay the price. Some overly intricate play between Pogba and Fernandes down the left is broken up, and City stream forward. The ball is shuttled upfield at pace, ending up at the feet of Foden, who nearly jinks his way into the United box down the middle. Maguire and Lindelof combine to usher him away from the danger zone.
18 min: More City passing. United hold their shape, coiled to spring forward given the chance. A pattern, it could be argued, has been set.
16 min: City are bossing this in terms of possession - over 70 percent so far - though United won’t be too worried about that. Not when Fernandes has the ability to pearl 50-yard passes from deep, nearly releasing Martial this time. De Bruyne and Zinchenko combine to close the door, just in time.
15 min: United respond through Martial, who makes good down the left before falling over his own feet in the City box. A lame appeal for a penalty that’s never going to be awarded. Then City nip upfield, De Bruyne dribbling down the right and nearly breaking clear into the box. Not quite. This is great fun.
13 min: Sterling strides down the inside-right channel and dinks inside for De Bruyne, who takes one touch and from 25 yards creams a full-fat rising shot towards the top left. Henderson is beaten all ends up, but the ball caroms off the post and clear. What a belt that was! City so unlucky.
11 min: Cancelo passes long. Gundogan attempts to tee up Mahrez, but United clear. Fernandes backs into Fernandinho and is clipped on the ankle for his trouble. He points this out to the referee with great clarity, but it’s a foul and nothing else. Let’s keep an eye on this duel.
10 min: United try something different at the corner, just about their entire team congregating at the near post. City refuse to become confused and clear their lines properly this time.
9 min: A really dismal clearance by Stones is intercepted by United. McTominay tees up Fernandes, who sidefoots powerfully towards the top right. Steffen does extremely well to tip round for a corner.
8 min: A lovely fast pace to this game. The polar opposite of the turgid nonsense these two teams produced here in the league last month.
6 min: This is an absurdly entertaining start. Some room for Pogba out on the left. He crosses deep, hoping to find Martial. Too deep. Pogba grimaces, perhaps thinking he might have done a bit better. City were short at the back there.
5 min: And now it’s City’s turn to have a goal disallowed! Some space for Foden down the left. He crosses low for Gundogan, who sticks out a toe and cleverly guides the ball across Henderson and into the bottom right! But the flag goes up; it’s another offside. What a start to this semi!
4 min: City breathe again ... and stroke it around again.
2 min: City spend the first 60 seconds stroking the ball around. Then Fernandinho tries to spring De Bruyne down the inside-right channel. Right idea, but too much pace. From the goal kick, Martial slips Rashford clear down the middle, simple as that! Rashford’s shot is spilled by Steffen, and the ball ricochets off Stones and dribbles into the net! But the flag goes up, correctly, for offside. What a farcical start that would have been!
An emotional moment of silence perfectly observed ... Bell’s old team-mate Mike Summerbee is pictured in the stand wiping away a tear ... and we’re off. City get the League Cup semi-final underway.
The teams are out! United in red, City in blue. The visitors came out wearing their early 70s retro No.8 shirts in honour of the late, great Colin Bell. A lovely touch. Also, that old-school badge is a bona-fide design classic. We’ll be off in a minute ... after a silent tribute to the King of the Kippax. RIP.
Ole’s turn. “We have had to change a few players throughout the season, but with the rest between the games this is a fresh team so we can go for it. Lindelof and Harry have played well against City before. We should go and enjoy ourselves. Make it our game. We are at home, in a semi-final, and you just want to enjoy these games. But you only enjoy them if you win. We are playing one of the best teams in European football, so we have to defend well, keep our structure and shape perfect, and hit them on the break a few times. We want to make it our game and get our good players on the ball.”
Pre-match Pep patter. “We took a bus 20 minutes ago from our home, and we travel here. And we are going to try to do a good performance to reach the final.” He looks relaxed and happy, despite large chunks of his squad having been laid low by coronavirus.
Colin Bell, one of the genuine greats, passed away yesterday. City will take to the field in retro No.8 shirts tonight, there will be a minute’s silence, and both teams will wear black armbands in memory of a true legend of Manchester football. Pep Guardiola has paid his respects: “It is a sad day for all of us. We want to send our best wishes to the family. This club belongs to the players who made this club what it is. Thanks for personalities like Colin Bell.”
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer makes two changes to the team that saw off Aston Villa on New Year’s Day. Dean Henderson takes David de Gea’s place in goal, while Victor Lindelof replaces Eric Bailly at the back.
Pep Guardiola makes two changes to the City side named for the victory at Chelsea on Sunday. Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez are in; Rodri and Bernardo Silva drop out. Kyle Walker and Gabriel Jesus return from Covid isolation, and will start on the bench. With two keepers having tested positive for Covid, 18-year-old James Trafford - young Trafford, if you will - is named as a sub.
Manchester United: Henderson, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Shaw, Fred, McTominay, Pogba, Fernandes, Martial, Rashford.
Subs: De Gea, Telles, Bailly, Tuanzebe, James, Mata, Matic, Van de Beek, Greenwood.
Manchester City: Steffen, Cancelo, Stones, Dias, Zinchenko, Fernandinho, Gundogan, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Foden, Sterling.
Subs: Trafford, Walker, Jesus, Aguero, Rodrigo, Mendy, Nmecha, Harwood-Bellis, Mbete.
Good luck calling the 184th Manchester derby. This League Cup semi-final arrives at a time when both United and City are in form and feeling good about themselves. United haven’t lost a domestic fixture since the start of November; City haven’t lost in any competition since the middle of that same month. United have the advantage in the head-to-head during the last 13 months, winning three out of five to City’s one ... but that one victory sealed semi-final triumph for City last time round. City are looking to win this trophy for a record-equalling fourth year in a row; United will think they’re due a semi-final victory after losing three of them last season. Yes, good luck calling it.
It’s not a two-legged affair this year, on account of that damned virus. This will be decided tonight, then, though there are limits to the pruning: we’ll still have extra time and penalties if needs be. Both teams will be able to make up to five substitutions, though they’ll only be permitted a maximum of three opportunities during the 90 minutes to do so. Should the game go to extra time, they’ll get one more opportunity. Who will face Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley in the April final? We’ll find out soon. It’s on!
Kick off: 7.45pm GMT.