Manchester, United Kingdom, Dec 30 (AFP/APP): Manchester City shrugged off a tight turnaround from defeat at Wolves to beat Sheffield United 2-0 on Sunday thanks to second-half strikes from Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne.
City boss Pep Guardiola had lambasted the scheduling that saw the English champions kick off less than 48 hours after playing the majority of Friday’s 3-2 defeat at Molineux with 10 men.
Fatigue seemed to get the better of City in the first half as the Blades enjoyed the better of the chances and had a Lys Mousset goal ruled out after a VAR review for offside.
However, the greater individual quality at Guardiola’s disposal decided the game as De Bruyne teed up Aguero to smash into the roof of the net seven minutes after the break.
De Bruyne then rounded off another excellent display by scoring the second himself with a fine finish eight minutes from time to inflict United’s first defeat away from home for nearly a year and bring City back to within 14 points of runaway Premier League leaders Liverpool.
“Today I understood why Sheffield United are in the place they’re in the table,” said Guardiola.
“In the first half we had problems, we changed some things and the second half was much, much better.”
Despite claiming that the crowded Christmas scheduling showed the Premier League and broadcasters “don’t care” about player welfare, Guardiola made just three changes to the side that started against Wolves.
City’s sluggish start should have punished by the visitors with Mousset particularly wasteful.
The Frenchman spurned a glorious early chance to put United ahead when he get on the end of a floated Callum Robinson cross but headed wide.
United thought they had claimed the lead on 29 minutes when Mousset raced onto a long ball from John Fleck and fired home.
City were furious because they thought Aguero had been fouled in the build-up but, while their complaints were brushed aside by referee Chris Kavanagh, VAR came to their aid by ruling Mousset was marginally offside.
“If the Mousset goal was not offside, it would have been very difficult for us,” added Guardiola. “In the second half we put more players closer to Sergio, and we passed the ball with more quality.”
It was a let-off for City but they were caught out by a long ball again soon after as Oliver Norwood picked out Mousset, who was onside this time but could only shoot into the side-netting with just Claudio Bravo to beat.
“You always know when you comes to grounds like Manchester City you have to take your opportunities, and unfortunately we didn’t,” said Blades boss Chris Wilder.
“The first goal is the game-changer. We were in the game and then we had to open up to try to get back into it and a world-class player finishes us off in the last ten minutes.”
The lack of a clinical finisher has been the only thing holding back Wilder’s men, who sit eighth in the table, on their already impressive return to the Premier League and they got a lesson in taking their chances from City’s all-time record scorer soon after the break.
De Bruyne picked out Aguero with a fine through ball and the Argentine blasted high past Henderson from a narrow angle.
Riyad Mahrez then teed up De Bruyne to wrap up the points in the closing minutes as the Belgian finished powerfully after taking a nice touch inside the area.