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Five things we’ve learnt from United vs City

Manchester-United-vs-Manchester-CityManchester United missed the chance to leapfrog City at the top of the table as they were held to a stalemate draw by their local rivals.

In what was a largely subdued Manchester derby, United and City outplayed each other and, in the end, the draw probably had Manuel Pellegrini feeling happier than Louis Van Gaal. United huffed and puffed but never really got going and struggled to build on last weekend’s win at Goodison Park.

Here’s five things we’ve learnt from Sunday.

1) Rooney must to be dropped

Scapegoating is a futile exercise in football but it’d be just as foolish to try and find excuses for Wayne Rooney. Having scored his first league goal away from home in 11 months last weekend, Rooney missed the opportunity to score in two consecutive league games for the first time since November 2014.

United lacked a cutting edge up-front but the 30-year-old did very little to improve his side’s predicament, showing a familiar lethargy when not it possession and a worrying lack of ideas with the ball at his feet.

It would be overly harsh to single out Rooney for United’s failure to score but the statistics tell a sorry tale for the United captain. He had zero shots on target, created zero chances, lost the ball five times more than any other player and had a 55% passing accuracy. He’s the captain and one of the senior players in the side but Van Gaal needs to bench him.

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2) Rojo steps up

Luke Shaw’s injury was expected to develop into a serious problem for United. However, Daley Blind and Marcos Rojo have deputised brilliantly at left-back, with the Argentine showing the kind of composure few thought he had in him. Injury problems and an allegedly questionable attitude have not made Rojo a regular in the starting XI but the former Benfica man was excellent against City, neutralising Kevin De Bruyne and proving extremely solid at left-back.

The Argentina international kept De Bruyne at bay in the first half and wasn’t troubled when Manuel Pellegrini introduced Jesus Navas and switched the former Wolfsburg man to the other flank in the second 45 minutes.

Rojo might offer less than Shaw going forward but his defensive contribution was outstanding against Everton and City and considering the Argentinian was linked with a move away from Old Trafford this summer, he looks to have secured a spot in the starting XI.

3) Defensive solidity counts

Drawing at home against a City side missing David Silva and Sergio Aguero will feel like a missed opportunity for United but Louis Van Gaal’s side can draw some positives from Sunday.

Not only have United kept their first clean sheet in an all-Mancunian affair since 2009, they’ve also not lost any of their first five league games at home since the 2010-11 season and kept at bay a side a that had scored 18 goals in the last three Premier League games.

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United’s struggles going forward have been well documented but it’s worth remembering they have conceded just once at home in the Premier League this season, the kind of form that could be crucial in a title race.

Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo never looked troubled, while Phil Jones delivered the kind of performance that has too often eluded him in games of this magnitude.

4) Martial continues to impress

The Manchester derby pitted two of the big summer signings – Anthony Martial and Kevin De Bruyne – against one another and it was the former who left the better impression of the two. The Frenchman proved again he’s a breathe of fresh air for United in the final third of the pitch, where Louis Van Gaal’s side continues to lack fluidity and cutting edge.

However, by deploying Martial out wide on the left to accommodate Wayne Rooney up-front, the three posed by the Frenchman is stifled. The 19-year-old showed what he was capable of as he cut inside on numerous occasions, leaving defenders in his trail but he would be a lot more effective as main striker.

The perfectly weighted pass that almost set up Jesse Lingard for what would have been the winner was a sight to behold.

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5) Valencia’s limits all too evident

Having endured a torrid 45 minutes against Arsenal at the Emirates, Matteo Darmian has found himself on the bench ever since. The Italian, who had been outstanding until United’s capitulation in North London, had to watch on from the bench for 80 minutes yesterday, until he replaced the injured Antonio Valencia.

While the Ecuadorian was excellent defensively and never looked troubled by Raheem Sterling, his limits in the final third of the pitch were repeatedly exposed. On numerous occasions, particularly in the first half, Valencia got himself in excellent positions only to fail to deliver a final ball of any real quality. It’s an issue that has plagued him for seasons now and Darmian now has a chance to reclaim a spot in the starting XI.

Dan