Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, right, celebrates with teammate Phil Foden, after scoring his side’s third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England on March 3, 2024.

Manchester City’s Erling Haaland, right, celebrates with teammate Phil Foden, after scoring his side’s third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England on March 3, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AP

Phil Foden led Manchester City’s fightback after an astonishing miss by Erling Haaland for a 3-1 win over Manchester United in a one-sided derby that exposed the gulf between the two Premier League rivals on Sunday.

City trailed 1-0 at halftime after Marcus Rashford’s rasping long-range strike in the eighth minute and a glaring miss from the prolific Haaland from barely two meters out.

Foden succeeded where Haaland earlier failed, smashing in a rising drive for the equalizer in the 56th and then sweeping in a low shot in the 80th minute off Julian Alvarez’s inside pass.

“I always had the feeling he would score goals. Right now, he is winning games,” City manager Pep Guardiola said of Foden, the 23-year-old England forward whose double took him to 17 goals this season in all competitions — a career high.

“He is the player of the season … no-one has been so decisive for us as him this season.”

There was still time for Haaland to atone for his miss by taking advantage of a defensive error to stroke home the third goal in stoppage time with City’s 27th shot of the match.

Haaland collapsed to the ground in mock relief following his goal — a league-high 18th of the campaign — after celebrating with Foden. The pair scored a hat trick each in City’s 6-3 win over United last season and they hurt their rivals once again.

Second-place City moved back a point behind Liverpool with 11 games to go in a title race that looks like going to the wire. If Arsenal beats Sheffield United on Monday as expected, the gap between the three main title contenders will be two points once again.

United, meanwhile, has lost ground in the fight for Champions League qualification. With fourth-place Aston Villa and fifth-place Tottenham winning on Saturday, United is now six points back from Spurs and 11 behind Villa.

The lopsided nature of the match showed that Jim Ratcliffe, whose Ineos operation has taken charge of United’s footballing operation as part of the billionaire’s arrival as a co-owner, has his work cut out in returning the club to being a force in the English and European game.

He talked last week about knocking City and Liverpool “off their perch” in three years. That might be optimistic on this evidence.

United was outclassed at Etihad Stadium, with the game mostly being played in the visitors’ half in the manner of an FA Cup match between a top-flight team and a lower-league opponent. City had 74% possession overall and United only had one shot on target — Rashford’s goal.

Still, before Foden scored his brilliant first, there was a chance United could somehow hold out. And even that goal was contentious, with United manager Erik ten Hag angry that a foul wasn’t awarded for a foul on Rashford by Kyle Walker prior to City breaking forward and grabbing the equalizer.

“(It was) maybe soft but there was contact,” Ten Hag said.

Soon after Ten Hag threw his water bottle on the ground, Foden was unleashing a shot that flew past Andre Onana.

Another draw — coming two weeks after City was held at home 1-1 by Chelsea — would have been a serious blow to the team’s chances of an unprecedented fourth straight league title but Foden and, belatedly, Haaland ensured that wouldn’t be the case.

And so, City will be heading to Anfield for a seismic match next Sunday right on Liverpool’s tail and with a chance of inflicting a huge blow in the title race. City is now unbeaten in 19 matches in all competitions dating back to a 1-0 loss at Villa on Dec. 6.

It’s a record United can only dream of in its current state as Ratcliffe gets to work with a mighty rebuilding job.

One positive for United was the performance of Onana, who repelled City with a series of outstanding saves in the second half and could do little about Foden’s breakthrough.

Another was the quality of Rashford’s goal, a thunderbolt from 30 meters after Onana’s long clearance got Bruno Fernandes behind City’s defense.

From then on, however, it was one-way traffic and United failed to stem the blue tide.



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