Manchester: Paul Pogba spoiled Manchester City’s anticipated Premier League title party by scoring twice in two minutes as Manchester United came from 2-0 down to win a thrilling derby 3-2 on Saturday.
Chris Smalling completed the comeback that looked so improbable when City were well on course to round off a resounding march towards the title by racing into a 2-0 first-half lead.
Goals from captain Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan put the hosts in a commanding position, who were left to rue huge missed chances from Raheem Sterling to extend their lead.
“In that level in that competition when you have chances you have to score,” said City manager Pep Guardiola. “They shot four times on target and scored three goals.”
Guardiola added more spice to an already hotly-anticipated clash when he claimed on Friday he had been offered the chance to buy Pogba two months ago by the player’s agent Mino Raiola.
Pogba has endured a desperately disappointing season having often been dropped by Jose Mourinho for United’s biggest games.
But after so much criticism, Pogba showed why he was the world’s most expensive player when United splashed out £89 million to bring him back to the club from Juventus in 2016 by hauling United back into a game that looked lost at half-time.
“If the accusation from his agent is that he wants to go to other clubs, his price has gone up,” said Mourinho wryly.
And Mourinho challenged his side to use their fightback as a springboard to a title challenge next season.
“I want to congratulate City for the title because they are going to win and deservedly. They gave no chance to the others because they had this season of don’t stop winning,” added the Portuguese.
“My objective here was to get points and not spoil any celebrations. The point is can we improve enough to catch them next season?”
– City prioritise Champions League –
Guardiola kept his pre-match promise to prioritise Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Liverpool with City needing to overturn a 3-0 first leg deficit.
Kevin de Bruyne, a leading candidate for player of the year awards, was left on the bench alongside Gabriel Jesus and City’s all-time top goalscorer Sergio Aguero.
Guardiola and Mourinho have a long-running rivalry dating back to their time in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
And the game quickly settled into the usual pattern when the two face off with City dominating possession and United happy to get plenty of men behind the ball.
Yet, for all City’s possession, just like when City won 2-1 at Old Trafford in December, it was from a set-piece that United were undone.
City’s Abu-Dhabi owners have splashed an estimated 878 million euros over the past decade to assemble a squad that has tilted the balance of power in Manchester from red to blue.
Kompany was one the Emiratis’ first purchases, and he was a fitting scorer on what seemed destined to be a historic day.
The Belgian outmuscled Smalling to power home Leroy Sane’s corner on 25 minutes.