Chants of “Ole” rang out from a boisterous corner of Old Trafford on Sunday as Manchester City saw out a record 14th straight Premier League win by keeping possession right in front of their jubilant fans.
Manchester United just could not get the ball off City near the corner flag in those painful last few minutes. One final humiliation on a day when City’s players opened up a close-to-unassailable 11-point lead and again highlighted the gulf between them and the rest of the league.
All at the home of their biggest rivals, too.
City won the Manchester derby 2-1 to set an English record for consecutive top-flight victories in a single season and hand United their first loss at Old Trafford in any competition since September last year, when City were also the winners.
With 16 games gone, City are unbeaten in the league and looking unstoppable as they go for their first league title under Pep Guardiola.
Third-placed Chelsea are 14 points off the pace, with coach Antonio Conte having already given up on defending the trophy.
United manager Jose Mourinho, whose team remain City’s closest challengers, also said the title race was “probably” over, despite the season not having reached the halfway stage.
“You cannot be champions in December, but it’s important for our confidence to feel that we can compete on big stages with huge personality,” Guardiola said
City capitalized on two defensive mistakes by United striker Romelu Lukaku at set-pieces to score their goals, with David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi applying close-range finishes in the 43rd and 54th minutes.
Marcus Rashford equalized for United from another defensive mistake, but the meeting of the league’s top two teams was one-sided.
Guardiola said only once had any of his teams — Barcelona, Bayern Munich or City — played better than that against United down the years, picking out Barcelona’s win in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in 2011.
Mourinho, who fell to a ninth loss in 20 head-to-heads with Guardiola, pointed to two major incidents in the final 10 minutes of normal time: The failure to award United a penalty for Otamendi’s challenge on Ander Herrera and City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes’ double save from Lukaku and Juan Mata.
“Manchester City are a very good team and they are protected by the luck,” Mourinho said. “The gods of football are behind them.”
“We won because we were better,” Guardiola said. “In all departments, we were better.”
After the game, Mourinho became involved in a physical confrontation with City’s players after complaining about their post-derby celebrations, British media reported late on Sunday.
The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph said Mourinho went to City’s changing room following their defeat, because he felt their noisy celebrations were disrespectful.
The newspapers reported that Mourinho had a verbal altercation with Moraes before having water and milk thrown at him by City’s players, and being hit on the head with a plastic bottle.
United’s security had to break up a brawl involving 20 players and staff members from both clubs, which was said to have occurred near the Old Trafford tunnel, the Mail said.
The reports brought to mind the “Battle of the Buffet” after United beat Arsenal in October 2004, when former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas threw pizza at then-United manager Alex Ferguson.
Additional reporting by AFP
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