Foden ascends to the top at Manchester City.

There are days when everything goes wrong and there seems to be no way to straighten things out. Unless the arguments to lift a team are solid. Manchester City had everything going against them in the derby against the struggling United, who took off unexpectedly at their neighbor’s stadium. The champions were searching for explanations, but also had the right to express a lament because they pushed and pushed for a victory that they finally achieved (3-1) through such effort that it felt better than the biggest of wins, leaving them trailing behind Liverpool at the start of a challenging period as the schedule presents consecutive matches against the league leaders and the other title contenders, Arsenal and Aston Villa.

Everything went wrong for City from the electrifying start that Rashford demolished with a thunderous shot into the top corner of Ederson’s goal. It was eight frenetic minutes, with intense local pressure, local overexcitement, and visitors feeling the squeeze. It also served as a reminder that nothing is predictable in football, as while the statistics showed City’s superiority, Rashford appeared out of nowhere, disrupted the algorithms, and handed his opponent a ticket to rush things.

Manchester City organized around their usual plan: crowding men in the opposition half to search for combinations and runs in tight spaces. They pressed because they knew to step up each time they lost possession and struggled when they were caught off guard and had to run back. This was how Rashford scored.

Despite many of their players being far from their best, City dominated, facing the unpredictable goalkeeper Onana, who acted as a barrier, denying Foden in a one-on-one and thwarting Rodri’s attempt from distance. Manchester United relied on their defense and collective effort, but also on City’s lack of accuracy, typified by Haaland, so disconnected from his teammates that when presented with an open goal just two meters away, he sent the ball over the crossbar. The Norwegian star, who had scored five goals against Luton in a cup match, had a subdued presence until redeeming himself with a goal late on.

The one to decide the game was Phil Foden, clearing the path for City when, after the break, he found the same spot where Rashford had aimed an hour earlier. With the equalizer, United dug an even deeper trench. Guardiola sacrificed the erratic Doku and brought in Julián Álvarez to enhance his team’s play in midfield. The victory came through there. An Argentine and an Englishman combined in a tight space to secure another derby win for City, their seventh in the last nine encounters. Foden, the scorer of two goals, cemented his place amidst chants with an English accent and under the watchful eye of the skeptical national team manager Gareth Southgate, establishing himself as the most influential English player in the Premier League.

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