WEEKEND TAKAWAY: United Crash Back to Earth

Another slow start at Etihad in the derby, life masterfully snuck out of the Man United by the aesthetical approach of Pep Guardiola and his richly assembled side looking to make a real statement.

First, Raheem Sterling made light work of the ageing Ashley Young on the left flank, bringing his pace and a bucket load of trickery to forth, an omnipresent attribute of the old guard, who himself earned a move to Old Trafford for possessing such fleet foot Sir Alex Ferguson couldn’t ignore. This windy evening at Etihad, he was being served a taste of his old medicine and he had no response to it. Although Aguero’s mishit shot failed to hit the desired target, David Silva was on hand to tuck it in. not literally, he still had to take the ball away from determined foot and hearts before hitting it into the roof of the net.

Unlike last season’s blistering start, City didn’t get behind Manchester United’s defence as often and as easily as they may have envisioned, but they stretched play so well and the lack of creativity in midfield must have pushed them on. As soon as Sergio Aguero made it 2-0 with the most unlikely touch imagined, it snuffed the fire out of United. City looked set to make it 54 straight wins against a team outside the top 6; then Romelu Lukaku came on and with his first touch, he pulled a dummy on Ederson Morales to win a penalty that put United back in it. Ironically, that was the last meaningful impact of the Belgian forward.

Ilkay Gundogan may have put the game to bed with four minutes to the end, but up until that point United had no answer and there would be no comeback. They lost to a hugely superior side, their struggles continue but a second defeat in a stretch of games that includes away trips to Chelsea, Juventus and Man City is nothing to be ashamed of.

Uysk retires Tony Bellew

Oleksandr Uysk’s customary knock out win was enjoyed this past weekend. Although he served Tony Bellew a portion of that big left hand in the eighth round to retain his world titles, at a point where he was really beginning to dominate the bout until then he was losing on the scorecard of two judges and the third judge had it as a draw.

Uysk may be well determined to prove his worth in the heavyweight class, but he will need a lot of upgrade in his game, particularly his power. He doesn’t seem to possess that heavy punch customary to boxers in the heavyweight and if he cannot hurt them with his punches, then there is no way he will be beating anyone or even get close to fighting Anthony Joshua as he has hoped.

Tony Bellew, on the other hand, bows out with his honour intact; he was never going to win this but he gave a good showing bringing an end to an industrious career that has witnessed few major accomplishments including a World title in 2016 – which is now held by Uysk.

Fantastic five for Mercedes

It was always unlikely that Mercedes will lose the constructors title in the penultimate race of the season having enjoyed such a dominant 2018.

What is really worth commending is how Mercedes still dominated the year, seeing as they no longer had the privilege of mastering this engine like they did when the FIA introduced the V6 engine at the start of their domination.

Ferrari will rue the unprecedented amount of own goals scored this season as the real reason Mercedes, and not them, have won again this year. They still look likely to have the better car next year, maybe right next to Ferrari will be Red Bull, and it’s up to the Italian team to make 2019 count.

Esperance completes remarkable comeback

Defying all odds, Esperance de Tunis had one final push and they duly delivered it at home. A week ago, their dream of playing at next month’s FIFA Club World Cup looked it was being taken away by perennial African champions Al Ahly.

Esperance had to overcome a 3-1 first leg deficit and suspension to two key members of the team. Undeterred, and with the full complement of the home support, the deficit was gone at half-time and now Ahly had to push forward in the second half, else a 2-0 defeat was enough to take a title off them anyway.

Now, a 3-0 win sums up the grit and will of the Tunisian side, having lost to the Egyptian side way too many times – 9 in the last 19 meetings, anything short of a comprehensive win will mean another day to fight for the title but they picked the right day to fight.

Borrusia Dortmund stuns Bundesliga

Lucien Favre was brought in to do a better job than both Peter Bosz and Peter Stoger did last season. The team was definitely going to improve, what no one saw was the possibility that Dortmund will be four points top of Bundesliga, seven points ahead of arch-rivals Bayern as well as cruising in the champions league.

No one imagined that halfway through the season, the new signings will have settled in so well and make the Westfalenstadion their home, but that is exactly the case.

Twice they came from behind to draw level in front of their home support, twice they relied on captain Marco Reus to deliver them and inspire belief as they kept falling for the predatory sense of Robert Lewandowski, a man who should have been in their colours, but not today.

As soon as they took the lead for the first time in the game through Paco Alcacer – possibly the most in-form of their new signings – with 13 minutes to go, there was definitely no going back. The perfect icing delivered on the cake.

In the end, Robert Lewandowski’s last-minute flick, a beautiful piece of skill, by the way, was correctly ruled out for offside through VAR. That would have denied the Black and Yellow a result they truly deserved.