By Ian Ladyman for the Daily Mail
Published: 21:39 GMT, 29 January 2020 | Updated: 02:02 GMT, 30 January 2020
Whatever else happens to him this season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will end it having won twice at Manchester City. That fact in itself underlines just how strange the Norwegian’s reign at Manchester United is becoming.
What Solskjaer will not have is a place in next month’s Carabao Cup Final. This was certainly one of United’s better evenings, a win to go with the one they registered here in the Premier League in December.
United proved themselves doughty opponents in the face of Pep Guardiola’s more flamboyant City team. They certainly gave their great rivals a fright.
Bernardo Silva celebrates in the tunnel after Manchester City sealed their spot in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley
Nicolas Otamendi shows his delight after City squeezed past United – winning 3-2 on aggregate but losing 1-0 on the night
It wasn’t to be for Harry Maguire and his United team-mates despite producing a courageous performance at the Etihad
Nemanja Matic scored the only goal of the second-leg with a fierce left-footed strike into the bottom right corner
United midfielder Matic rifles a half-volley past City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to ramp up the nerves inside the Etihad
The 31-year-old Serbian midfielder celebrates giving United the advantage 10 minutes before the half-time whistle
Matic is mobbed by his team-mates after giving United a glimmer of hope in the Carabao Cup semi-final tie on Wednesday
United fans celebrate by letting off a red flare after Matic put the visitors ahead in the 35th minute at the Etihad Stadium
Manchester City (3-2-4-1): Bravo 6; Walker 6.5; Otamendi 7; Cancelo 5.5; Rodri 5.5; Gundogan 6.5; Mahrez 6 (D Silva 68, 5.5); De Bruyne 7.5 (Stones 90+1); B Silva 6; Sterling 5.5; Aguero 6 (Jesus 90+3)
Subs not used: Zinchenko; Ederson; Foden; Garcia
Booked: Rodri; Otamendi
Manager: Pep Guardiola – 7
Manchester United (3-4-1-2): De Gea 8; Lindelof 7; Maguire 7.5; Shaw 7 (Mata 79); Wan-Bissaka 7; Fred 8.5; Matic 6.5; Williams 6.5; Lingard 5.5 (Pereira 65, 6); Greenwood 6 (James 45, 6); Martial 6
Subs not used: Bailly; Jones; Dalot; Romero
Goals: Matic 35
Booked: Matic; Wan-Bissaka
Manager: Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – 7
Referee: Kevin Friend – 7
But after the horrors of the first leg at Old Trafford, Solskjaer’s team needed to win by two here to take the tie to penalties and they could only manage one.
That came from the flashing right boot of Nemanja Matic in the 35th minute. It was United’s only effort of any sort in the first half. At the time that didn’t seem to matter as they were back in a tie that seemed to be beyond them when they trailed 3-0 at half-time in front of their own fans at the start of the month.
In the end, though, it did matter. One of the great flaws – and there are many – of this poor United side is that they don’t create chances. Not many teams do at City, of course, but United do not generally do so whoever they play from the top division.
Here United ended the game with credit after a good performance but they had only managed two shots on target all night. When you are chasing a game that is just not enough and all of it cannot be put down to the absence of the injured Marcus Rashford.
City certainly looked less sure of themselves for a while and United may take some perverse pleasure from that. Guardiola’s team were rattled by Matic’s goal and for a period they lost control of the flow of the game. Indeed, only when Matic was sent off for a second booking with 15 minutes left did United’s latent threat disappear completely. City were able to play the game out in relative comfort and indeed looked the more likely scorers late on.
Earlier in the night, City had looked in total control as you would have expected. Guardiola – always a coach who has taken this competition seriously – fielded a strong team and twice in the opening eight minutes, City could have scored.
Referee Kevin Friend shows Matic a red card after he picked up a second yellow for cynically tripping up Ilkay Gundogan
United’s goalscorer is consoled by manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after receiving his marching orders late on
Matic picked up his red for cynically tripping up Gundogan, who was attempting to set up a City counter-attack
City goalkeeper Bravo speaks to a young pitch invader in the dying minutes as City limped through to the Carabao Cup final
Sergio Aguero was the first player to be denied by David de Gea. The cross from the left by Ilkay Gundogan was played at an angle and with perfect trajectory. Aguero – stealing in round the rear of United’s back three – had time to measure his header and directed it back across De Gea. It was the right idea but the keeper saved low with his right hand.
A goal at this stage and maybe United would have been sunk. So De Gea’s next save, with his foot from a deflected Riyad Mahrez shot, was equally important. At this stage, United were flat and unsure of themselves. To fall behind on the night perhaps would have been fatal.
City continued to be superior throughout the first half hour without being as dangerous as in the early moments. Gundogan, Aguero again and then De Bruyne all threatened as United grew in to the contest only slowly.
They had destroyed City on the counter attack earlier in the winter but were not playing with that kind of verve on this occasion. When they scored, it was from a set piece.
Jesse Lingard won a free-kick on the left side and when Fred swung the ball in, it was headed away only for Matic to drive it first time on the volley low to Claudio Bravo’s left and in off the post.
After Matic was sent off, Sergio Aguero thought he had put the tie to bed but he was ruled offside by the linesman
Raheem Sterling thought he had equalised for City in the 42nd minute but his effort was also ruled out for offside
The England international shows his dejection after the linesman cancelled his goal out just before half-time
City players desperately appeal for a penalty inside the first half but referee Friend was having none of it on Wednesday
City defend a United set-piece after coming under plenty of pressure during the second-leg of the Carabao Cup semi-final
It was a super, clean strike from the Serbian and it changed the mood in the stadium. Raheem Sterling did have the ball in the net before half-time but was offside as he moved on to a De Bruyne cross while Bernardo Silva bamboozled Brandon Williams at the byline only to roll his cross in to empty space.
City were suddenly a little cowed. United captain Harry Maguire headed another Fred free-kick over at the start of the second half and briefly City lost their way. As Guardiola appealed for more crowd noise, Nicolas Otamendi played a pass in to touch and then Kyle Walker allowed the ball to run under his foot and off the field.
For United there was real opportunity but they just weren’t good enough – dangerous enough – to take it. City were vulnerable but were allowed to assert themselves again, Sterling erring when through on goal and substitute David Silva inexplicably choosing not to shoot when presented with the ball ten yards out by a Maguire mistake.
Ultimately Matic’s dismissal robbed United of their chances of a late cavalry charge and soon after Aguero was denied by an offside flag.
City will be disappointed with how they played. Despite their clear superiority in Manchester these days, they are not always at their most convincing when facing the team from across town. Speaking afterwards to TV, De Bruyne sounded exasperated and with good reason.
They will not remember this night when they face Aston Villa at Wembley at the end of next month, though. They beat Villa 6-1 recently and will start as heavy favourites. This year’s Premier League will go to Liverpool but City’s appetite for domestic trophies whatever the size and shape remains strong and there is something admirable about that.
United had been good – for once – but not good enough. Solskjaer must file this victory under a heading called ‘consolation’.
Aguero produces a diving header in the opening minutes at the Etihad but David de Gea makes a brilliant save to deny him
Fred and Aaron Wan-Bissaka attempt to get the ball off City defender Joao Cancelo during the opening period
Solskjaer and Pep Guardiola watch on from the sidelines as the Manchester rivals went to battle on Wednesday
United chief executive Ed Woodward was in attendance just a day after having his house attacked by furious supporters
Man City 0-1 Manchester United (3-2 on aggregate): Guardiola’s men reach Carabao Cup final
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