MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Chants of “Ole!” rang out from a boisterous corner of Old Trafford as Manchester City saw out a record 14th straight Premier League win by keeping possession right in front of its jubilant fans.
Manchester United just couldn’t get the ball off City near the corner flag in those painful last few minutes. One final humiliation on a day when City’s players opened up a close-to-unassailable 11-point lead and again highlighted the gulf between them and the rest of the league.
All at the home of their biggest rival, too.
City won the Manchester derby 2-1 on Sunday to set an English record for consecutive top-flight victories in a single season and hand United its first loss at Old Trafford in any competition since September. City was the winner then, too.
With 16 games gone, City is unbeaten in the league — having dropped only two points against Everton — and looking unstoppable as it goes for its first league title under Pep Guardiola. Third-place Chelsea is 14 points off the pace, with its coach Antonio Conte having already given up on defending the trophy.
United manager Jose Mourinho, whose team remains City’s closest challenger, said the title race was “probably” over, too, despite the season not having reached the halfway stage
“You cannot be champions in December,” Guardiola said, attempting to downplay expectations. “But it’s important for our confidence to feel that we can compete on big stages with huge personality.”
Just like City did in beating Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge and thrashing Liverpool 5-0 at home.
City capitalized on two defensive mistakes by United striker Romelu Lukaku at set pieces to score its goals, with David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi applying close-range finishes in the 43rd and 54th minutes.
Marcus Rashford equalized for United, from another defensive mistake, but the meeting of the league’s top two teams was one-sided. Guardiola said only once had any of his teams — Barcelona, Bayern Munich or City — played better than that against United down the years, picking out Barcelona’s win in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium in 2011.
Mourinho, who fell to a ninth loss in 20 head-to-heads with coaching rival Guardiola, pointed to two major incidents in the final 10 minutes of normal time: The failure to award United a penalty for Otamendi’s challenge on Ander Herrera and then City goalkeeper Ederson Moraes’s double save from Lukaku and Juan Mata.
“Manchester City are a very good team and they are protected by the luck,” Mourinho said. “The gods of football are behind them.”
The game kicked off in light snowfall and, until being caught cold by Rashford’s equalizer, City overran United at times, just like in last season’s 2-1 win at Old Trafford. Kevin De Bruyne and Silva, in particular, were given so much time in central midfield with opposite numbers Nemanja Matic and Herrera unsure whether to close down or retreat in front of their defense.
It meant City was getting quite easily to the edge of United’s box before encountering a wall of red jerseys. The final pass was the only thing lacking and invariably the opening goal came from a source at which United was supposed to have the advantage: The set piece.
De Bruyne’s outswinging corner hit Lukaku as the United striker challenged for the ball with Otamendi, and Silva was on hand to guide the loose ball past stranded goalkeeper David De Gea from just inside the six-yard box.
City’s players switched off in the final moments of the half and United made them pay. De Bruyne had already wasted a three-on-two breakaway when Otamendi failed to deal with a routine long ball forward from United center back Marcos Rojo, who was bandaged up after a clash of heads with Silva.
Otamendi misjudged the flight of the ball and succeeded only in glancing a header backward, behind his flat-footed left back Fabian Delph. Rashford was more alert, driving a first-time shot low past Ederson.
Both teams were forced into halftime substitutions in defense — Vincent Kompany off for City, Rojo for United — but the shape of the game didn’t change.
Lukaku barely threatened up front for United but he again unintentionally made his presence felt at the other end of the field. He had time and space to deal with Silva’s floated free kick in the 54th, yet managed to smash his attempted clearance into the back of teammate Chris Smalling. Just like with the first goal, the ball dropped kindly for a City player, with Otamendi this time powering home the finish.
“We won because we were better,” Guardiola said. “In all departments, we were better.”
PHOTOS: Best of the 2017-18 Premier League season
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