As Twitter trolled Claudio Bravo for a disastrous debut, Pep Guardiola was left in the spotlight for more than just masterminding a vital victory over Manchester City’s arch-rivals.
A 2-1 success at Jose Mourinho’s United – to confirm a fourth successive Premier League win and 50th derby triumph – and the brilliance of Kevin De Bruyne was overshadowed by the Chilean’s display at Old Trafford.
“Claudio Bravo is terrible,” wrote former Arsenal hero Ian Wright in one of the more kinder statements to the 33-year-old.
Simple and succinct, though, the view of one of English football’s striking greats was shared by many, including City’s own worried fans.
For 41 minutes their side had been in total control, dominating possession, toying with the hosts, and deservedly leading thanks to goals from De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho.
Moments later they were totally out of sorts, driven to panic and defensive despair by the performance of their new No1, a man controversially chosen to replace one of the club’s heroes in Joe Hart. Bravo was seemingly bereft of confidence and an understanding of the fast-paced game played on these shores.
It could turn out to be one of Guardiola’s most crucial decisions in his first season at the club. One that could make, or break, City’s season. Good, reliable keepers usually provide the foundation for trophy-winning teams, but Bravo did not look an ounce of that.
Bravo was mocked mercilessly after he dropped a routine cross from Wayne Rooney to allow Zlatan Ibrahimovic a 42nd minute goal that gave United hope when there should have been none.
And things just got worse as his footwork and ability on the ball, an attribute supposedly superior to Hart and the main reason the England international was allowed to join Torino on loan, were found wanting.
He could have conceded a penalty and seen red for a studs-up challenge on Wayne Rooney after an awful first touch under pressure, and was rescued by his defence on numerous occasions when he was caught in a flap.
Guardiola was quick to defend his keeper, bizarrely calling the performance “one of the best I’ve ever seen” and praising him for his positivity rather than reflect on his shortcomings.
It was a show of blind faith. This was a horror show that would leave even the greatest of managers fearful of the future.
Future opponents will look at this game and City should be prepared for aerial bombardment and constant pressing from forwards to force Bravo into more embarrassing errors.
A cautious United did not do this enough in the first period, even allowing Bravo to play a part in the opening goal for De Bruyne by starting a quick counter with a pass out to Aleksandar Kolarov.
That was an indication of why Guardiola signed him from Barcelona, but this is not La Liga where patient build-ups are often the norm and players get time on the ball.
English football can be an unforgiving place and mistakes are rarely forgotten.
It may be harsh to judge Bravo after one game, especially after having just a couple of training sessions behind him too.
He will get time to adapt and to improve the understanding with his backline, but he will be under pressure constantly. In short, Bravo will be under scrutiny more than he ever has been before.
It won’t matter what he did at Barca or how many titles he has won for club or country, but how he took the place of a City legend and how he measures up to his predecessor.
With Guardiola’s judgment and reputation on the line, Bravo cannot afford to fail. This was an occasion and win that he, and the City boss, got away with. He might not be so fortunate next time.
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