Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was delighted to see Anthony Martial back to his best in Manchester United’s derby win, particularly as the forward nearly missed Sunday’s game at the Etihad Stadium.
Martial was an injury doubt right up until kick-off after not featuring in the 0-0 draw away at Crystal Palace in midweek due to a knee problem.
However, the Frenchman produced an outstanding display against Manchester City, including winning the early penalty that allowed Bruno Fernandes to fire the visitors in front after just 101 seconds.
Luke Shaw doubled the lead in the 50th minute having also been doubtful to play himself, with the Red Devils putting an end to their neighbours’ 21-game winning streak in impressive fashion.
“I thought Anthony was absolutely superb today, more like the Anthony of old,” Solskjaer told Sky Sports.
“And to think he was a doubt this morning. He was until two hours – or after the warm-up, to be fair. I wasn’t sure he was going to play or not. It was the same with Luke.
“Today he [Martial] rediscovered himself, I feel. He was really strong on the ball, positive, and we have to be a positive team.
“We want to play at a high tempo, of course we do, but we had to defend well. You’ve got to defend so you can attack the spaces that appear.”
1 – Among the 67 managers Pep Guardiola has faced more than three times across all competitions as a top-flight boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjær is the only one to have beaten the Spaniard (4) more often that he has lost to Guardiola (3). Devil. pic.twitter.com/RKl7lhGLJq
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 7, 2021
Martial played in a central role with Edinson Cavani unavailable, completing 95 per cent of his attempted passes as he consistently caused problems to City’s previously stingy defence.
The only disappointment was his failure to convert a glorious opportunity to score himself in the second half, a goal his performance richly deserved.
“When you come away with a 2-0 win and another clean sheet, and a performance like this, you’re delighted,” Solskjaer said of his team’s display against the runaway league leaders.
“We knew it was a challenge. Of course, the first goal dictates a lot of what happened out there.
“We could play more on the result, I didn’t like us coming into half-time as we played too much on the result, because we were winning.
“In the second half we got on the ball a bit more and the second goal was fantastic.”
2 – Today is the first time that both Liverpool and Manchester City have lost a home @premierleague game on the same day since March 3rd, 2007, when Liverpool lost to Man Utd under Rafael Benítez and Man City to Wigan under Stuart Pearce. Rest. pic.twitter.com/9JHXWyAP0u
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 7, 2021
Pep Guardiola’s side had not lost in their previous 28 games in all competitions, a run that stretched back to a 2-0 reverse away at Tottenham in November 2020.
However, Solskjaer has developed a welcome habit of winning at the Etihad. The Norwegian is the first manager in United’s history to win each of his first three away meetings in all competitions against City, who still remain 11 points clear at the Premier League summit.
“They are too far ahead to think we can catch them,” Solskjaer said. “Last year, we caught up 15 points up to Leicester, but those are different propositions.
“Even today, they do put you under so much pressure that you can see you’re playing against a very, very good team.”