Five Manchester Derby details: City’s problems are many but Bernardo is a central one

Ian Whittell on the biggest talking points from a dramatic Manchester Derby.

Five Manchester Derby details: City’s problems are many but Bernardo is a central one

Ian Whittell on the biggest talking points from a dramatic Manchester Derby.

1 Racism remains a plague but at least football is treating it seriously

Within minutes of the final whistle at the Etihad, City had issued a complaint expressing their disgust at one of their supporter’s actions towards black United players and, by this afternoon, there were reports of an arrest by GreaterManchester Police. The episode even moved pundit Gary Neville to launch an impassioned speech on TV about how racism was a societal problem, name-checking Boris Johnson in the process.

Like Neville, more intelligent United supporters realised this was not a time for point scoring at a rival’s expense. After all, United had just banned a supporter for a similar crime in the recent game against Liverpool. The one consolation about the recent outbreaks — and there was even one at League Two Forest Green Rovers on Saturday — is that they are gathering intense media attention and being treated seriously by clubs.

2 Just how well are United currently playing?

Part of the fun of football supporting and punditry is to play at what-ifs. In the case of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s season, it might also be a relevant debate. What if United had not missed penalties in early season games with Wolves and Palace? Successful conversions in those would have put an extra three points on the board for the Reds. What if United had not let the lead slip in successive recent games with Sheffield United and Villa? That would have been worth another four points. In a game of fine margins, such talk is pointless of course, but it may point to the possibility that Solskjaer’s modus operandi is right and he is leading his club in the right direction.

3 Marcus Rashford IS the real deal

This time last year, Rashford was making a name for himself with England but Jose Mourinho was refusing to hand him starts in a faltering United side. Twelve months on? The United forward may be the Premier League’s most in-form player and, at the ripe old age of 22, fulfilling the promise he showed when he first burst into the United team nearly four years ago. Often criticised — rightly on occasion — for his inconsistent finishing, Rashford has scored in 11 of the last 14 games he has played for club and country, netting 13 times in that span. But, more importantly, his general play has been phenomenal — with four assists in the league already this season to go with his 10 goals.

4 The Silvas conundrum

David Silva’s last season in English football was supposed to go a little more smoothly than this but the Spanish veteran’s drop-off in form has been one of the factors behind City’s poor campaign to date. A shame for a player who might even be the best foreign import ever to grace the Premier League.

At the age of 33 that might have been expected, however. His namesake Bernardo is of far greater concern, with his majestic displays of 2018-19 a distant memory. There was a hat-trick in the 8-0 humiliation of Watford in September since when he has scored just once for City — in the 3-1 loss at Liverpool — and his overall form has headed in a similar downward trajectory. City’s problems are many but Bernardo is a central one.

5 What does this mean for Pep Guardiola?

Guardiola has looked an increasingly disgruntled figure in recent weeks — no great surprise given the way his team’s title bid has disintegrated. The Catalan has always insisted he will see out his contract at the Etihad — that runs until 2021 — and only last week was talking about being open to the possibility of hanging around even longer. If that is to remain the case, City’s hierarchy will presumably have to put in some extra groundwork to convince him this is a project worth seeing through.

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