This was the game where Liverpool fans hoped for City to take a stumble and drop a vital point.
Pep Guardiola’s side was faced with the intense pressure of an away derby in which only three points could do.
It was not to be. The Reds ended the night disappointed: Manchester’s reds, Liverpool’s too. The city was victorious, imperious and returned to the top of the league. With three games left to play (Burnley, Leicester, and Brighton) and there is nothing Jurgen Klopp and his players can do. Someone else will have to stop City. Manchester United, like Liverpool, missed their chance.
It was in the final 45 minutes that the real City turned up. They had seemed nervy before half-time, slower than usual, to Pep Guardiola’s immense annoyance.
That changed once he got into them and with the fortuitous introduction of Leroy Sane after 51 minutes.
Fortuitous because he came on for Fernandinho, who went off injured after a bruising – although entirely fair – tackle with Paul Pogba.
It was Wayne Rooney who described how Pogba hurt players in the tackle without even intending it. He was just build that way. Fernandinho seemed to get a foot stuck in the turf challenging him. Bold as ever, Guardiola dropped Ilkay Gundogan into his position and brought on a flying wideman, Sane. That changed City, and the game.
They got faster, became ferociously hard to contain, started dictating the play at the pace the manager demanded. And in that period they took the game away from United; maybe the title away from Liverpool, too. In a period of 12 minutes, they scored twice and could have had more, the goals providing the breathing space they needed as the tension was released.