Erling Haaland scored his first derby goals at Old Trafford with a classy double as Premier League champions Manchester City coasted to a 3-0 drubbing of fierce rivals Manchester United.
The Norway forward tucked away a penalty for the opener on 26 minutes by sending United keeper Andre Onana the wrong way from the spot after VAR decided Rasmus Hojlund had pulled back Rodri in a crowded home area.
He added his 11th league goal of the season when he finished off a blistering sweeping move to power home a header from a Bernardo Silva cross on 49 minutes.
Indeed, only a brilliant diving stop from Onana had prevented Haaland a second with a powerful header in added time in the first half, with the Cameroon international also somehow swiping the ball away from the feet of Haaland on his line after repelling a Foden header.
At the other end, City goalkeeper Ederson showed his quality to tip a Scott McTominay volley over his bar late in the first half, but Erik ten Hag’s struggling side were well beaten.
City move up to third in the table, behind Arsenal on goals scored, but only two points adrift of leaders Tottenham. United are eighth in the table on 15 points, eight points off the top four.
Apart from the abject nature of Manchester United’s display, VAR had every reason not to feel proud of itself again on Sunday evening.
The problem with human error interfering in modern technology was there for all too see as VAR awarded CIty a softish penalty when Hojlund clearly grappled with Rodri in the box midway through the first half.
Referee Paul Tierney seemed to hesitate in studying the VAR call before finally pointing to the spot.
Rodri was unlikely to have latched onto the ball heading into a hard-pressed United defence’s penalty area, but if that decision was deemed worthy of a penalty, you do wonder why Harry Maguire was not penalised for a similar foul on Haaland around the hour-mark?
It was a clear foul by the blocking England defender on Haaland as he hauled him back inside the box before Jack Grealish drilled a shot across goal and wide of target. Tierney was this time not prompted to go to the monitor.
There will be a directive among match officials explaining why one decision was a penalty, and one was not, but it all seems so confusing and ultimately incorrect.
VAR remains a frustrating lottery in the modern game, adding more anxiety to a sense of unfairness when a referee used to call it wrong back in the day.
The inconsistency of its decision-making has also failed to clear up what is a foul inside the area is and what is not.
Plenty of contenders for the award with Haaland and his City team-mate Grealish always to the fore for Pep Guardiola’s free-flowing team, while the Manchester United keeper Onana produced another fine performance to keep the score at three.
But the outstanding player on display was Rodri at the heart of the City midfield. Just makes the whole City team tick with his alertness to break up attacks and prompt them from deep becoming like a work of art in the modern game.
City’s return to form has been prompted by the Spain midfielder’s return from suspension. He remains as key to City’s well-being as the goals of Haaland up top.
Manchester United: Onana 8, Dalot 6, Lindelof 5, Maguire 6, Evans 6, Amrabat 5, McTominay 6, Eriksen 6, Fernandes 6, Rashford 6, Hojlund 5 Subs: Mount 5, Martial 5, Reguilon 5, Antony 5. Garnacho 5
Manchester City: Ederson 7, Walker 8, Dias 7, Gvardiol 7, Stones 7, Rodri 9, Silva 7, Grealish 8, Alvarez 7, Foden 7, Haaland 8 Subs: Kovacic 5, Doku 5
7′ CITY ALMOST AHEAD! Rodri on the ball dictating tempo before Walker heads across for Foden to head at goal. Clawed out by Andre Onana before he smuggles the ball away with Haaland ready to convert on the line. Maguire then completes the clearance. Frantic defending from United, but they survive.
25′ VAR CHECK: RODRI PULLED BACK IN THE BOX Hojlund clearly pulls Rodri in the box and referee Paul Tierney has a look at it. He takes his time, but decides it is a penalty. Chance for City to take the lead.
26′ GOAL FOR CITY! That man Erling Haaland steps up with the penalty. Haaland with his first derby goal at Old Trafford. They lead 1-0. Onana went to his right and the Norwegian striker sent the ball to his left. What a start for City. Their first penalty in the derby at Old Trafford for 32 years.
45+1′ UNITED ALMOST LEVEL UP! The 191st Manchester derby sees City in the lead, but McTominay almost levels. His shot on the volley tipped over the bar by Ederson. Four minutes of added time.
45+2′ ONANA WITH A SUPERB STOP! Haaland heads towards goal with a powerful effort from the Silva cross, but Onana does enough to keep it out. Fine stop to prevent City from moving 2-0 ahead.
49′ GOAL FOR CITY! Superb move by the visiting side is finished off in style by Haaland as he rises to power home a header. Brilliant sweeping move by the champions. Silva with the cross to the back post and that is 2-0.
80′ NUMBER THREE FOR CITY! All too easy as Foden tucks the ball home from the Haaland pass for the third goal of a one-sided affair. Onana halted the Rodri shot, but the suffering not over for the home fans. And a few United fans have seen enough as they head for the exits.
CREDIT TNT SPORT