MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, Dec 29 – Manchester City shrugged off a tight turnaround from defeat at Wolves to beat Sheffield United 2-0 on Sunday thanks to second half strikes from Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne.
City boss Pep Guardiola had lambasted the scheduling that saw the English champions kick-off less than 48 hours after playing the majority of Friday’s 3-2 defeat at Molineux with 10 men.
Fatigue seemed to get the better of City in the first half as the Blades enjoyed the better of the chances and had a goal ruled out after a VAR review for offside.
However, the greater individual quality at Guardiola’s disposal decided the game as De Bruyne teed up Aguero to smash into the roof of the net seven minutes after the break.
De Bruyne then rounded off another excellent display by scoring the second himself with a fine finish eight minutes from time to inflict United’s first defeat away from home for nearly a year.
Despite claiming the Premier League and broadcasters “don’t care” about player welfare given the schedule his side were handed over the festive period, Guardiola made just three changes to the side that started against Wolves.
City’s sluggish start should have punished by the visitors with Lys Mousset particularly wasteful.
The Frenchman spurned a glorious early chance to put United ahead when he get on the end of a floated Callum Robinson cross but headed wide.
The hosts were restricted to long-range efforts early on but De Bruyne, Rodrigo and Raheem Sterling were all unable to work goalkeeper Dean Henderson.
United thought they had claimed the lead on 29 minutes when Mousset raced onto a long ball from John Fleck and fired home.
City were furious because they thought Aguero had been fouled in the build-up but, while their complaints were brushed aside by referee Chris Kavanagh, VAR came to their aid by ruling Mousset was marginally offside.
It was a let-off for City but they were caught out by a long ball again as Oliver Norwood picked out Mousset from just outside his own box.
This time Mousset was onside but could only shoot into the side-netting.
The lack of a clinical finisher has been the only thing holding back a stunning return to the Premier League by Chris Wilder’s men and they got a lesson in taking their chances from City’s all-time record scorer soon after the break.
De Bruyne picked out the Argentinian with a fine through ball and Aguero blasted high past Henderson from a narrow angle.
Riyad Mahrez then teed up De Bruyne to wrap up the points in the closing minutes as the Belgian finished powerfully after taking a nice touch inside the area.
Billy Sharp went close to grabbing a late consolation but his header rebounded off the post.