Holders Manchester City took a big step towards another League Cup showpiece with a 3-1 win over Manchester United in their semi-final first leg clash at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Manchester City outclassed their neighbours in the first half, going in 3-0 at the break with goals from Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and an Andreas Pereira own goal.
This was before Manchester United regrouped and avoided what could have been a more emphatic defeat.
“We could have gone in four or five up at half-time. We had the chances. They pressed us higher in the second half, we got tired. But, overall, we are happy,” Bernardo Silva said later.
The hosts suffered a blow before kick-off with their 80 million pounds central defender Harry Maguire failing a fitness test and Phil Jones was handed a rare start.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola opted to play without a recognised striker, giving midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva licence to push forward centrally.
With Raheem Sterling and Mahrez on the wings, the approach worked superbly against a flimsy-looking defence.
It was then a brilliant strike from Bernardo Silva that put City ahead in the 17th minute, the winger cutting in from the right before unleashing a superb shot into the far, top corner.
The busy Portugal international then created Manchester City’s second in the 33rd minute, collecting a poor headed clearance from Victor Lindelof.
He danced past a challenge before threading the ball to Mahrez who rounded goalkeeper David de Gea and slotted home.
Manchester City then punished Manchester United after 38 minutes with a counter-attack which ended with De Bruyne leaving Jones on the ground and blasting goalwards.
De Gea’s parry ricocheted off Manchester United midfielder Pereira into his own net.
Manchester United looked more solid after the introduction of midfielder Nemanja Matic at the break and got a foothold in the tie through a 70th minute goal from Marcus Rashford.
The England striker was picked out by a perfectly-weighted pass from Mason Greenwood and coolly slipped the ball past goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
The last 15 teams to win away from home in the first leg of the League Cup semi-final have all progressed to the final, but Guardiola said the tie was far from over.
“Of course Manchester United can come back. Last year here (in the UEFA Champions League), they lost to PSG and still qualified,” he said, referring to Manchester United’s 2-0 home defeat by Paris St-Germain in the last 16 which they overturned with a 3-1 win in Paris.
“They have the shirt which means history and pride,” added the Spaniard, whose Manchester City team lost 2-1 to their rivals at the Etihad in December’s English Premier League clash.
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, on his part, said his side had not performed well in the crucial period after Manchester City’s opening goal.
“From their first goal, and especially the second, we struggled to get to grips with them.
“We responded with a good reaction in the second half. But in the first half until they scored it was back and forth. We didn’t cope with the setback well enough,” he said.
Leicester City face Aston Villa in the first leg of the other semi-final fixture on Wednesday.