Manchester City made to wait for title as Pogba leads stunning Man United comeback
MANCHESTER, England -- Three points on Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United in the Premier League on Saturday afternoon.
1. Incredible United fightback keeps City waiting
Manchester United produced a stunning second-half fightback at the Etihad to overturn a 2-0 half-time deficit and deny Manchester City the chance to seal the Premier League title.
In a pulsating 176th Manchester derby, City looked to have won the game and the title by racing into a 2-0 half-time lead following goals from Vincent Kompany and Ilkay Gundogan. With Raheem Sterling also missing two easy chances, City's dominance threatened to become embarrassing for United after a dismal opening 45 minutes for Jose Mourinho's men.
But two Paul Pogba goals inside the opening 10 minutes of the second half, followed by Chris Smalling's 69th-minute volley, won the game for United and inflicted on City a first home league defeat since December 2016.
City had been desperate to win this game in order to seal the title against their bitter rivals. But this defeat leaves them still needing six points to claim their third Premier League title and Guardiola's first in English football.
The odds on the title ending up at City remain incredibly short, but United's victory will boost morale at Old Trafford ahead of their bid to win the title next season.
For City, however, the immediate challenge will be to lift themselves ahead of Tuesday's Champions League quarterfinal second-leg against Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp's team 3-0 up from the first leg.
2. The best and worst of Pogba
When United lost 2-1 to City at Old Trafford in December, many pointed to Pogba's absence through suspension as the crucial element in his team's defeat.
Yet as United trailed 2-0 at half time in this game, the French midfielder's very presence in the team was a major reason for City's dominance.
Then came his second-half performance and the Pogba two goals which turned the game on its head and threw United a lifeline.
This was a game which summed up the good and bad of Pogba in the space of 90 roller-coaster minutes. We saw the absolute worst of the former Juventus man during the opening 45 minutes, when he was lazy, disinterested and careless. But after the interval, he was focused, determined and decisive, with his goals coming at a crucial stage of the game for United.
Pogba's inconsistency will infuriate Mourinho, who has dropped the £89m man on numerous occasions this season. He is everything that a Mourinho midfielder is not, in many ways. But when he is at his best, as he was in the second half, he can be a game-changer against the very best teams.
So how does Mourinho handle him? He has to persist with Pogba because of his value when the going is good, but he cannot afford the lazy days that he is prone to.
Mourinho simply needs to ensure that he has more performances like his second-half display against City.
3. Will City pay against Liverpool?
Pep Guardiola surprised many by selecting such a strong team for this game considering that the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal against Liverpool is just 72 hours away.
With the Premier League title as good as won, the City manager could have made wholesale changes and rested his players ahead of the Liverpool clash.
But Guardiola instead went strong, naming seven of the team which started in the first leg against Liverpool on Wednesday evening, in a bid to give the City fans the joy of clinching the title against their bitter rivals.
With City cruising at 2-0 at half-time, Guardiola's selection seemed justified, but United's second-half fightback turned the game around and forced the home side to chase a game they had already won.
By the end of it, some of Guardiola's players were clearly struggling for energy, with tempers fraying all over the pitch.
Both mentally and physically, City's players burned up more energy than they will have wanted to ahead of such a crucial game on Tuesday.
With another month to play this season, City could have fielded a second string against United and still won the title with ease.
Guardiola will now have to hope that his team still have enough in the tank to overturn the 3-0 deficit against Liverpool.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_