Pep Guardiola refused to rule out a fresh approach for Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez after Gabriel Jesus suffered a suspected knee injury in Manchester City’s 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.
On a damaging afternoon, City’s pursuit of a 19th successive Premier League victory ended in frustration and with injuries to Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne, who was taken off on a stretcher following a late challenge by Jason Puncheon.
That came in a dramatic finish to the match, which saw Ederson save Luka Milivojevic’s late penalty to keep City unbeaten in the league this season.
City attempted to sign Sanchez, whose contract expires at the season’s end and who Guardiola once signed for Barcelona, during the summer transfer window.
With Jesus facing a spell on the sidelines Guardiola was asked about the Chilean, and the 46-year-old responded: “We will have meetings and see what is best.
“He is a player from Arsenal and I think he is going to stay at Arsenal. Now (the priority) is just to recover from today. Sometimes you ask for that but I have a lot of things in my mind. In two days, we have another game (at home to Watford). But now Alexis is an Arsenal player.”
Guardiola had already expressed concerns Jesus could be ruled out for up to two months when he said: “Gabriel will be out for maybe a little more than one month. Kevin, we will see tomorrow, if it is a kick or something else. We were lucky in recent games. It is the same. I admire the physicality of the league, but the referees have to protect the players. It is all I am asking.
“We were lucky against Tottenham, with Kevin, we were lucky against Newcastle, (with Ilkay) Gundogan; today we will see what happens. Hopefully it is just a huge kick. Maybe he will not be ready for Watford game. Protect all the players please from situations that are dangerous.”
That City performed below the extraordinary level they have consistently achieved this season meant that they dropped points in the Premier League for only the second time in 21 games, and for the first time did not score.
They regardless remain undefeated, in first place, and 14 points above closest challengers Chelsea, but Guardiola played down their chances of emulating Arsenal in 2004, when the Gunners went the entire league season without defeat.
“That is not going to happen,” he said. “I am not thinking to be unbeaten. Maybe Arsene (Wenger) is worried about that but I tell him many times that 2004 run is for him. Today is completely different to 2004. Here are now more strong teams, a lot of competitions, a lot of games. That is not going to happen. I try to win the game, and especially focus on Watford.”
Crystal Palace halted Manchester City’s pursuit of a record-equalling 19th successive league victory by holding them to a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park.
On only the second occasion this season that City have dropped points in the Premier League, they were even fortunate to avoid defeat to opponents they beat 5-0 in September after Luka Milivojevic missed a late penalty.
Their 18 consecutive victories already represented a Premier League record, but Palace’s resilience means they fell one short of the European record set by Bayern Munich, also then managed by Pep Guardiola, in 2014.
Tweet of the match
Star man – Timothy Fosu-Mensah
All of the Palace defenders needed to be at their best to frustrate City and limit the chances for the visitors even as they enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, but Fosu-Mensah was particularly effective in shutting down the pace of Leroy Sane and making crucial interventions throughout the match.
Moment of the match
There was good news and bad for City in a dramatic passage of play at the death. Palace were awarded a controversial penalty – and the chance to become the first side to beat City in the Premier League since April – but a poor effort from Milivojevic was saved by Ederson.
That preserved City’s unbeaten run but the incident seconds later, when Puncheon felled De Bruyne and the key midfielder was carried off on a stretcher, could deal a huge blow to City’s ambitions at home and abroad.
Manchester City’s record winning run comes to an end at 18 matches – leaving them one short of matching Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich team from 2013-14 – but Ederson’s late penalty save keeps alive their hopes of matching Arsenal’s Invincibles of 2001-02.
Wayne Hennessey 8
Timothy Fosu-Mensah 8
James Tomkins 7
Scott Dann 6
Patrick van Aanholt 7
Yohan Cabaye 7
Luka Milivojevic 6
Jairo Riedewald 7
Andros Townsend 6
Christian Benteke 7
Wilfried Zaha 7
Martin Kelly (for Dann, 20) 7
Jason Puncheon (for Cabaye, 75) 5
Lee Chung-yong (for Puncheon, 90+6) 6
Kyle Walker 8
Nicolas Otamendi 7
Eliaquim Mangala 6
Kevin De Bruyne 7
Ilkay Gundogan 6
Bernardo Silva 6
Gabriel Jesus 6
Leroy Sane 6
Sergio Aguero (for Jesus, 23) 7
Raheem Sterling (for Gundogan, 57) 6
Yaya Toure (for Silva, 81) 6
Round One went to Jose Mourinho.
Even though Manchester United finished outside the top four of the Premier League last season, triumphs in the League Cup and Europa League meant the Portuguese recorded a better start to his new job than old foe Pep Guardiola did at Manchester City.
Half a season on, Mourinho is now the one on the ropes.
While United started the season in fine fashion, they’ve been hit by injuries, suspensions and a drop in intensity that has seen them drift away from City.
INHERITED A POOR SQUAD
The problems have been piling up at Old Trafford, however many have’t been borne out of this campaign. Several issues with the squad are long-standing ones.
Despite the money spent since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped down as manager, the recruitment has been less than impressive and often lacking in direction.
The team had few striking options with Wayne Rooney past his best while Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford were far too raw and still lacking in experience even now. To his credit, recruiting Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a masterstroke by Mourinho, it made them competitive but alas, was another move that papered over the cracks.
Even with the signing of Paul Pogba, the midfield still lacked quality. It’s no wonder that Mourinho looks over at City and can’t help but be jealous.
The likes of Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero and David Silva have all played starring roles this season and Guardiola didn’t have to spend a penny for any one of them.
Instead, the Spaniard had the luxury of splurging nearly £200million on four defenders since his arrival in order to implement his specific system while putting a couple of finishing touches to their attack.
Mourinho on the other hand has been scrambling to put out one fire after another only to turn around to find more.
The United boss has managed to rebuild Old Trafford as a fortress, one that has been breached only by City in recent times. However, the Theatre of Dreams still misses its aura of years gone by.
While teams are definitely daunted once again by the prospect of trying to take three points away from the venue, they aren’t exactly shaking in their boots in the tunnel, those nerves seem reserved for the Etihad Stadium now and perhaps even Anfield.
United no longer go for the jugular. Under Mourinho, they’re compact and attacks are calculated. The comebacks and late winners used to be part of the Old Trafford experience but the Red Devils never looked like scoring in the closing stages against Southampton on Saturday.
For that, Mourinho only has himself to blame. Regardless of the personnel, United always found a way to exert pressure on the opposition in the closing stages, throwing caution to the wind and camping in enemy territory until they finally gave in.
They used to be incredible at spreading play, overloading the flanks and forcing their opponents into submission. Under Mourinho, they have been ponderous in possession, devoid of genuine width and lacking in zip and intensity. No one believes they can clinch a result late on, themselves included.
Moving forward this season, United face an uphill task. Never mind the title, they now face a battle for a top four spot and injuries to Lukaku and Ibrahimovic won’t do them any favours.
With both senior strikers out, Mourinho is now having to pay for being so reliant on Lukaku in particular. Seldom has he entrusted either Rashford or, to an even lesser extent, Martial with the centre forward role since his appointment.
Last season, he had to throw Rashford in at the deep end when Ibrahimovic was injured and will now be forced to do the same again, unless he has his way and is allowed to splurge in January.
The team’s injury concerns aren’t just limited to the striker’s position though. With Antonio Valencia out, Mourinho has reluctantly had to turn to Luke Shaw at left-back while Ashley Young fills in for the Ecuadorian on the right.
More importantly, Michael Carrick’s health condition means Nemanja Matic has been working overtime and it’s beginning to tell in his performances.
Many of these issues though could’ve been avoided had Mourinho shown more faith in the younger players with the likes of Rashford afforded more chances up front or even Scott McTominay filling in on occasion for Matic to give the Serbian a rest.
Whatever resurgence United can manage for the rest of the season, if at all, Round Two seems destined to go to Guardiola and should Mourinho fail to learn from his mistakes ahead of next term, he could be on the receiving end of a knockout blow.