(Reuters) - Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola needed only 15 minutes in training to come up with the tactical changes that led to Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Manchester United in the League Cup semi-finals, playmaker Kevin De Bruyne said.
Guardiola opted to play without a recognised striker at Old Trafford, giving De Bruyne and fellow midfielder Bernardo Silva licence to push forward centrally and the move worked perfectly as City scored three times before halftime.
“We did 15 minutes on it (tactics) in the morning, that’s about it,” De Bruyne told the British media on the plan to play with a ‘false nine’ in the first leg.
“We didn’t train that but it’s not like we never did it before -- we did it sometimes against teams that prefer to play man-against-man; Cardiff City, United, in Barcelona away we did it the first year with Pep... we’ve done it a couple of times.”
Despite Silva’s unfamiliarity in the position, he scored the opening goal in the 17th minute before Riyad Mahrez doubled the lead and United’s Andreas Pereira scored an own goal.
United pulled one back in the 70th minute through striker Marcus Rashford to give themselves a chance in the tie.
“With Bernardo dropping (back) it’s four against three in midfield so they have to choose what they do,” De Bruyne said.
“If they put their defender up there’s more space behind and if not Bernardo’s going to be free. That’s what we tried to do. I think overall we played well.
“The second half they tried to put a bit more pressure on us and we made one mistake and they scored from it.”
City, who succumbed to United’s counter-attacking might in a 2-1 Premier League loss at the Etihad Stadium in December, host their neighbours in the second leg of the semi-final on Jan. 29.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar
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