Premier League title race is back on thanks to Manchester United beating City in derby - The Warm-Up
Anthony Martial leads the way as Manchester United win the derby and cut City's lead at the top of the table. The Premier League title race is now officially back on! Kind of. Meanwhile, up in Scotland, Celtic's goalless draw hands the title to Rangers. And Kieran Trippier makes his return in the Madrid derby.
Luke Shaw of Manchester United celebrates with teammates after scoring his teams second goal during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium
But while it's a shame that this surprise result between first and second probably won't change anything about first and second, this was still a pretty good game. Absorbing. Interesting. And all those other words we use when a game never quite reaches spectacular.
Of course, when it comes to Big Games, United don't do spectacular, and they try their best not to let their opponents do it either. The script for such occasions, judging by all those nil-nil draws, is to bunker deep, work abominably hard, and hope that a goal arrives either through a penalty or on the break. Here they managed both.
Questions for City will centre on shape and personnel: whether this season's strikerless experiment might have caused United more problems; whether Phil Foden could have come in earlier; whether Sergio Agüero should have come in at all. City's starting 11 is always going to look scary, given the quality all through the squad, but we're betting United's defence were delighted not to see Foden's name, and Bruno Fernandes was pleased that Bernardo Silva was missing.
As for United, there were bright spots all over the pitch. Dan James continued his busy, quiet evolution into the Welsh Park Ji-sung, while Dean Henderson made a decent case for being allowed to keep the big gloves. Fred had a good game, which means that he caused more problems for the opposition than for his colleagues.
But the win was built around two stories of redemption. The Luke Shaw Renaissance has been one of this season's more heartwarming stories: from broken leg and scattered brain to one of the best left-backs in the league. And he's been threatening to score precisely that goal for months now — bustle forward, come inside, exchange passes with Marcus Rashford, shoot — so nice to see it finally come off.
And then there was Anthony Martial. If you know a United fan whose heart didn't sink, just a little, on seeing the Frenchman's name on the teamsheet, then you know a liar. And sure, it might have been nice if he'd scored his gift-wrapped, silver-plattered chance to make it three. But a great forward performance doesn't need to be a great striking performance, and Martial harried, stretched, hassled, and stressed City's defence for 88 excellent minutes.
Now, if Solskjaer can just find a way to make sure every opponent kicks him in the box within the first minute, that 11-point gap might be in reach…
‘We need to improve on so many things’ - Solskjaer after derby win
Gerrard's Victorious Rangers
Speaking of gaps at the top of the table, congratulations to Rangers, who are the champions of Scotland for the 55th time. Unless you're very strict about football clubs beginning and ending with their legal entities, in which case: congratulations to Rangers, champions of Scotland for the first time.
Either way, there's no arguing. A 20 point gap and a title won before the frost is even out of the bones, before the league has even split. History will probably have some searching questions for the rest of the league, Celtic first among them, and there is something appropriate about confirmation coming after the defending nine-in-a-row champions couldn't find a goal against an obdurate Dundee United.
But ultimately, just look at those results. Look at that goals against column. Nine conceded, in 33 games. That's not just good, that's not just historic, that's into weird pub quiz trivia territory. And truly, there can be no higher compliment. All that, and their top scorer, James Tavernier, is a right-back. Just ridiculous behaviour all round.
Now, it's the Old Firm derby in a couple of weeks. Get ready for some intense guard of honour chat.
Simeone's Chance-missing Mattress Makers
Modern football is a small place, thanks to the globalised connections of the superclubs and the saturation coverage of, well, absolutely everything. But even in these times of seeing everything, it's still pretty cool that Burnley's former right-back is going to be one of the most important players in the Spanish title race.
Back after his 10-game ban for Whatsapp misdemeanours, it took Kieran Trippier just quarter of an hour to get involved. He slid the ball up the right to Marcos Llorente, who skipped over a challenge and found Luis Suárez, proving that you don't need pace to find space. And then Suárez looked up, saw Courtois advancing, decided that a chip was too risky and power too unpredictable, looked up again, and then twisted his body round to slice the ball with the outside of his right foot, the awful genius.
There will probably be more impressive goals this season. There might not be any so correctly and brilliantly weird.
Obviously Real Madrid hung on to the end, and obviously they nicked a late equaliser, and obviously the title race remains thoroughly alive. That's just how things go. But Trippier is back and already Atleti look better for it. Shaw, Tavernier, Trippier. Football really is all about the full-backs.
IN OTHER NEWS
In an unusual turn of events, Manchester City's stand-out performers yesterday were the social media team. Bwaaaa. Bwaaaaaa. Bwaaaa.
Happy 72nd birthday to Teófilo Cubillas, Peru's finest ever player. Which meant, lucky for him, that he got to play his international football in the game's finest ever shirt, the sash kit from which all other sash kits draw their awesome power.
Over on the Athletic, friend of the Warm-Up Nick Miller looks back at the long, long, long career of Doncaster Rovers' James Coppinger.
He cost £30,000 when he signed from Exeter in 2004, which works out at about £45 per game. At the time of writing, Coppinger is on 599 league games for Doncaster. He’s made 680 in all competitions, and 801 over his entire career. In those 17 seasons, he’s played alongside 259 different Doncaster players, spanning generations — quite literally in one case: when he first arrived one of his team-mates was Ricky Ravenhill, and this season one of his team-mates has been Liam Ravenhill, Ricky’s son."
The big game of the day is in Italy, as league leaders Inter take on entertainment leaders Atalanta. In the Premier League, Chelsea and Everton scrap over fourth place, and then this season's two great tactical minds go head to head: West ham vs. Leeds, Moyes vs. Bielsa.
And Marcus Foley will be overlapping down the wing and bursting into the box to deliver tomorrow's Warm-Up