Manchester City’s Leroy Sane (centre) celebrates after scoring against Manchester United during their EPL match in Manchester on Wednesday. Agence France-Prese
Manchester City took a huge step towards retaining the Premier League title as a 2-0 win at Manchester United on Wednesday took them a point clear of Liverpool at the top of the table with three games to go.
Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane struck for the visitors in 12 second-half minutes at Old Trafford to inflict a seventh defeat in nine games on United, who remain three points adrift of the top four.
City have now won 11 straight Premier League games and further victories over Burnley, Leicester and Brighton will ensure Liverpool’s 29-year wait to win the title continues no matter what Jurgen Klopp’s men do in their remaining three games.
United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made five changes in response to his side’s 4-0 humiliation at Everton on Sunday and was rewarded with a far more energetic and committed performance even if City’s greater quality eventually shone through.
Yet, Arsenal’s defeat at Wolves means the Red Devils are still very much in the race for Champions League qualification, should they beat fourth-placed Chelsea at home on Sunday.
Guardiola made just three changes from the team that gained some measure of revenge on Tottenham for their Champions League elimination last week, but the decision to recall captain Vincent Kompany seemed a questionable one early on as the Belgian struggled to deal with United’s pace up front.
Kompany was booked for barging Marcus Rashford just 10 minutes in as United enjoyed a bright start.
Paul Pogba tested Ederson from long range before Jesse Lingard’s acrobatic volley from the Frenchman’s cross flew just wide.
United goalkeeper David de Gea’s form has dipped dramatically of late and it was another night to forget for the Spaniard as he could have done better for both goals.
And the differing performances of the two goalkeepers proved key as City stopper Ederson rushed from his goal to make a brilliant challenge at Rashford’s feet as the England striker raced in behind Kompany once more.
Solskjaer has bemoaned United’s fitness levels in recent weeks and again after an early burst, they started to flag as City created a spurt of chances either side of half-time.
Firstly, Raheem Sterling shot too close to De Gea after weaving through a host of United bodies inside the area before Sergio Aguero dragged well wide when unmarked at the edge of the box.
Guardiola was forced into an early change in the second-half and showed his intent by replacing holding midfielder Fernandinho with the goal threat of Sane.
And that positivity was instantly rewarded when Bernardo cut inside onto his favoured left foot and beat De Gea at his near post.
Within a minute, City were inches away from doubling their lead when a fine team move teed up Aguero to smash the outside of the post.
United had one huge chance to level when Lingard failed to connect at the far post with the goal gaping.
Sane has been scarcely used by Guardiola of late, but the German, whose winning goal inflicted Liverpool’s only league defeat of the season in January, again showed his capability to make a difference in the biggest games.
Sterling led a City counter-attack before feeding Sane, whose powerful shot De Gea could not keep out.
City may have to wait another year for Champions League glory, but they are now bearing down on history in the English game with four games separating them from a first ever domestic treble.
Elsewhers, Arsenal’s failings were cruelly exposed as their Champions League ambitions suffered a painful blow with a 3-1 defeat at Wolves.
Ruben Neves, Matt Doherty and the outstanding Diogo Jota scored the goals that condemned Unai Emery’s side to defeat and dented their hopes of a top-four finish.
But for all Wolves’ impressive play in a devastating spell at the end of the first half, Arsenal were architects of their own downfall with poor defending, sloppy passing and dreadful goalkeeping from Bernd Leno.
The goalkeeper was beaten by Doherty in the air for the second goal before allowing Jota’s low shot to squirm under his body for the third.
He had already been beaten by Neves’s fine free-kick for the opener, with Sokratis’s late header for Arsenal proving no more than a consolation.