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Pogba inspires Man United's derby comeback, De Gea preserves win

This game of two halves almost defies analysis. Manchester United could have been trailing by four or five at half-time, yet they came back from two goals down to win 3-2 with an effort of spirit and magnificence. What's more, their saviours -- Chris Smalling and Paul Pogba -- were those most criticised in the first half. Pep Guardiola's men must wait to be crowned Premier League champions, while United remain second, having given a glimpse of just how good they can be when playing with freedom.


Pogba and Smalling recovered from difficult first halves to win the game, while David De Gea produced a save for the ages from Sergio Aguero to clinch the victory. Alexis Sanchez set up two goals and was excellent at times in the second half; Ander Herrera's graft was essential.


Almost all of United's players were poor in the opening 45 minutes; it is hard to think of one who emerged with any credit.

Manager rating out of 10

7 -- Jose Mourinho's day is hard to assess because his team looked in disarray at the break. The first half was as abysmal as the second was transcendent; players who seemed unsure whether to press or sit deep recovered in striking fashion. That must be due in no small part to Mourinho, and this must rank as one of his more famous victories.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK David De Gea, 9 -- His poor clearance led to City's second goal -- an error emblematic of United's first half overall -- but he produced one of the saves of the season to preserve United's lead. Few other goalkeepers on the planet could have reacted as quickly to stop Aguero's header.

DF Antonio Valencia, 7 -- A first half that looked hapless was followed by a second in which he looked transformed. From hacking the ball clear under little pressure to concede the corner from which City scored their opener, Valencia ended the game by repeatedly tearing forward on the counter-attack.

DF Chris Smalling, 7 -- The picture of United's redemption. Had a first half so poor -- passing nervously, as well as losing Vincent Kompany for City's opener and Raheem Sterling on numerous occasions -- that many would have been happy to see him taken off at the break. Yet he stayed on to produce a beautifully taken volley to win the match.

DF Eric Bailly, 6 -- One of his worst games for United overall, which is saying something given this relatively good mark. Recovered from a first half full of poor positioning to help secure a famous win.

DF Ashley Young, 6 -- Led a charmed life and could have conceded two penalties. But he showed tenacity even as his composure failed him.

They could have been beaten by half-time, yet Manchester United were smiling at the end of derby day.

MF Nemanja Matic, 7 -- Was exposed early by City's pace and movement, plus United's pressing high up the pitch, but came to impose his authority on the game with precise tackling and distribution.

MF Ander Herrera, 8 -- The spirit of this victory. Combative, cocky and spiky throughout, he came into his own by disrupting City's rhythm as the perfect foil for Matic. Showed a useful ability to win free kicks in the closing stages.

MF Paul Pogba, 8 -- From villain to hero. Pogba looked sluggish when tracking back in the first half and tried to do too much by himself to compensate, then let the game come to him after the break to produce two elite finishes two minutes apart. He also turned in a defensive performance that some might have thought was beyond him and overall overwhelmed City at both ends.

FW Jesse Lingard, 7 -- Industrious as ever, even when the game did not go his way. A lesson in remaining committed when below your best.

FW Alexis Sanchez, 8 -- Worked hard throughout, and it clicked for him in the second half, when he set up two goals and looked to have developed an understanding with several of his peers. A much brighter future for him should await.

FW Romelu Lukaku, 7 -- Was often on the fringes, isolated by City's movement and passing from the back. However, like Lingard, Lukaku put in an extraordinary effort when not in possession, and his work off the ball was one of many small things that made the difference for United.


FW Marcus Rashford, NR -- Worked hard in wide areas to push City back on their heels in the closing stages.

MF Scott McTominay, NR -- Unfussy, unhurried play brought a touch of calm to proceedings at a vital time.

DF Victor Lindelof, NR -- Brought on in stoppage time to run down the clock.

Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.


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