The latest edition of a fixture first played in 1881 was the story of an unimpressive debut from Ederson, the £34.69m-priced goalkeeper, who was culpable for each of Manchester United’s strikes.
Errors are a feature of close season football and Ederson may make more. Yet given Manchester City’s travails with No1s under Pep Guardiola the hope will be the Brazilian settles quickly.
United and City had begun the 175th staging of this famous fixture by walking through billowing smoke into a darkened NRG Stadium lit up by a sea of supporters’ phones. The ballyhoo belied Jose Mourinho’s insistence in the build-up that this would be a glorified training exercise and so a virtual non-event of a Manchester derby.
Vincent Kompany took the opposing view. The City captain’s pre-game stance was that there can be no friendlies where these two rivals are concerned. To prove the point he took two minutes to clatter into his Belgium team-mate, Romelu Lukaku.
This was City’s opening tour match and United’s third. In wins against LA Galaxy (5-2) and Salt Lake City (2-1), Mourinho’s outfit operated at a relative canter. The upturn in tempo here was noticeable as two Premier League big beasts took turns to attack.
The red wave came first as Ander Herrera forced the opening save of Ederson’s City career and Lukaku’s surge-and-pass to Jesse Lingard was fluffed by the No14. Now came the sky-blue surge as Phil Foden dribbled forward and let fly a left foot shot that David De Gea had to eye carefully.
Like Foden, Kyle Walker was making his debut. While the 17-year-old from Stockport cost City nothing and positioned on the left of City’s 4-3-3, the right-back cost an eye-watering initial £45m and operated in his normal right-back berth.
In a foot-race with Marcus Rashford Walker showed a prime quality he was acquired for – pace – and shepherded the ball out. On display, too, were further feisty challenges; Rashford and Henrikh Mkhitaryan joined Lukaku as United players who might inform Mourinho the showdown was being contested as it should.
Considering this was City’s opening outing since the 5-0 thumping of Watford on 21 May they could be happy with their sharpness. As the stanza wore on Guardiola’s men probed more though they were to end it behind due to Ederson’s mistakes.
Before those, Fernandinho leapt on an errant United pass and fed Patrick Roberts. The wide forward was in on goal and then pulled back by Chris Smalling. The referee, Ismail Elfath, failed to blow his whistle, and when possession came to Sterling, Smalling blocked the attempt.
The next incident involved Lukaku’s second strike in two games and derived from the one thing Guardiola did not want: an Ederson error. The Catalan’s problems at No1 number began with his bombing out of Joe Hart out last summer and moved onto his replacement, Claudio Bravo, enduring an awful 2016-17 campaign.
Ederson, then, is Bravo’s successor. When Paul Pogba flipped a precise pass into Lukaku out rushed the 23-year-old. But he failed to take ball or man, and from a tight angle the No9 swept home a neat finish.
This was on 37 minutes. United’s second came moments later and causes further scrutiny of Ederson. Mkhitaryan roved toward the area and switched play right to Rashford. He took aim and though the effort came hard and true the keeper appeared close enough to ball to stick out a glove. Instead, in it went, and United’s lead was doubled.
This was two goals in two minutes. Two yellow cards were about to arrive in the same time-span. Yaya Toure scythed down Mkhitaryan and saw yellow. Then Daley Blind did the same to Roberts and out came the card again.
For the second half Guardiola made seven changes and Mourinho made three. What did not change was the shaky nature of Ederson’s bow. From a position reminiscent of David Beckham’s halfway line beating of Wimbledon’s Neil Sullivan in 1996, Rashford launched the ball at City’s goal. The Brazilian scooted back anxiously and just managed to tip over.
The next time United attacked Ederson was beaten. But Lukaku’s pile-driver smashed back off the right post and to safety. Further substitutions followed that upset the flow of the match. Of interest here was the sight of Samir Nasri and Eliaquim Mangala in City colours. Each are for sale and as this is proving hard to do, they were being placed in the shop window in the hope to attract suitors.
By the close this 134-year-old encounter had created a small slice of Mancunian football history by being played overseas for the first time, in Houston, a city built on swampland, and which is the U.S.A.’s fourth largest.
United triumphed but, as the cliche goes, this was for bragging rights only. For these two clubs the real stuff starts in mid-August, on the new season’s opening weekend.
Manchester United (4-2-3-1): De Gea (Romero, ht); Valencia (Fosu-Mensah, 78) , Smalling, Lindelof (Jones, ht), Blind (Darmian, ht); Ander Herrera (Fellaini, 62), Pogba; Lingard (Pereira, 78), Mkhitaryan (Carrick, 62), Rashford (Martial, 62); Lukaku
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson; Walker, Kompany (Stones, ht), Adarabioyo (Otamendi, ht), Fernandinho (Mangala, ht); Toure, De Bruyne (Nasri, ht), Foden (Zinchenko, 76); Roberts (Brahim, ht), Aguero (Jesus, ht), Sterling (Sane, ht)
Yellow: Toure (42), Blind (44), Mangala (55)
Referee: Ismail Elfath