Football Features

Man City 2-0 Sheff Utd: Wilder suffers first away defeat as De Bruyne produces classic performance

By Steve Jennings

Published: 20:01, 29 December 2019

Manchester City ensured the chasm between themselves and Liverpool didn’t widen any further by beating Sheffield United 2-0 on Sunday evening.

The result also means Sheffield United’s unbeaten away start to the Premier League campaign is officially over, while Pep Guardiola became the fastes manager to clock up a century of wins in the Premier League.

Lys Mousset was desperately unlucky to see an opening goal ruled out for offside before Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne struck for the champions after the break.

Here are three winners and three losers from the Etihad Stadium:

Winner: Sergio Aguero

Aguero was the unfortunate player to be substituted when Ederson was sent off against Wolves on Friday. His return from injury lasted just 20 minutes at Molineux, but at least it allowed him to build for fitness ahead of this one.

And the extra bit of rest paid off. After struggling to find any openings in the first half, Aguero was put through by De Bruyne 10 minutes after the break. There are few better strikers in that right-centre channel than the Argentine, who blasted the ball past Dean Henderson.

Aguero made the finish look easy, yet it was anything but. Guardiola will hope his deadly marksman can stay fit and in-form for the rest of the campaign.

Loser: Lys Mousset

At the other end of the pitch, Sheffield United striker Mousset had a far more eventful first half than Aguero but ended with nothing going his way.

The former Bournemouth man thought he had opened the scoring when he latched onto a pinpoint John Fleck pass and finished clinically past Claudio Bravo. But as has been the case so often this weekend, VAR intervened and deemed Mousset was offside by a minute margin.

It was a gutting moment for the striker and Sheffield United as a whole. Mousset found himself through again not long after but could only hit the side netting. Despite his very best efforts, his best chance had gone, and so had his team’s.

Winner: John Fleck

He hasn’t been talked about nearly as much as some, but John Fleck has been an instrumental figure in one of the most impressive promoted sides in years.

Not only did Fleck play some superb passes – including one that, for a moment, gave Sheffield United the lead before VAR intervened – but he was also crucial in winning and keeping the ball for the Blades. The Scot completed all three of his attempted dribbles and made more ball recoveries (9) than any other Sheffield United player.

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Loser: Sheffield United’s unbeaten away run

Sheffield United very nearly made it to the New Year without losing away from home in the Premier League this season. For that unbeaten run to come at the Etihad – one of the most difficult places to go in the division – is testament to the Blades’ incredible form on the road.

What’s more, it would be reductive to suggest Sheffield United were simply outclassed here. Rather, bad luck was the reason their unbeaten away run came to an end more than anything else.

One things for certain: Chris Wilder’s men will continue to be a tricky opponent for any home side in the Premier League for the remainder of the campaign.

Winner: Kevin De Bruyne

Like Aguero, Kevin De Bruyne didn’t really enjoy Friday’s defeat to Wolves – not that anyone associated with Manchester City did. Wolves’ man-advantage meant City had to dig deep rather than play their usual free-flowing game, which saw De Bruyne’s influence wane more than most.

Despite a sluggish start from the hosts against Sheffield United, they eventually got going and De Bruyne, predictably, played a key role. His goal and assist were both typical of the Belgian, a perfectly weighted pass and a powerful yet placed finish earning the points in the end.

De Bruyne is just about unstoppable in this kind of form, and Sheffield United will rue the fact they could have been ahead before the best player in the Premier League really got going.

Loser: Jamie Vardy

With two strokes of his right boot, De Bruyne’s closed in on Jamie Vary’s goal involvement tally. The Leicester striker has been involved in 20 goals so far this term, while De Bruyne is now on 19 (seven goals, 12 assists).

Vardy is obviously still way ahead when it comes to the race for the Golden Boot and may not be losing any sleep over this, but De Bruyne’s goal involvement numbers might mean the Manchester City playmaker is leading the way when it comes to the Player of the Year reckoning – though that award is likely to go to a Liverpool player if the Reds end up as champions.

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