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Robbie Savage hails Pep Guardiola’s striker-less ‘masterclass’

Former Wales and Leicester City midfielder Robbie Savage hailed Pep Guardiola's tactical masterclass as his side beat Manchester United 3-1 in their League Cup semi-final, first leg at Old Trafford yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The match came a month after the Citizens suffered a shock 2-1 defeat by United at the Etihad in the English Premier League.

But Guardiola turned the tables on his opposite number Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, by tweaking his side and starting the match with no recognised strikers.

The Spaniard, who famously converted Lionel Messi into a false No. 9, yesterday made the unprecedented move of setting up his side with four false No. 9s - Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Kevin de Bruyne.

It worked a treat as City played their local rivals out of the park, racing to a 3-0 lead after just 38 minutes via goals by Silva, de Bruyne and an Andreas Pereira own goal. City eased off in the second half and United grabbed a consolation 20 minutes from time, courtesy of Marcus Rashford.

Said Silva: "I think the first half was the perfect 45 minutes.

"We could have gone in four or five up at half-time, we had the chances...

"I enjoyed my role - because it worked and we won."

De Bruyne, meanwhile, revealed that City prepared this tactical tweak for just 15 minutes on the morning of the match.

He said: "We did 15 minutes this morning. That's about it.

"But it's not like we never did it before. We did it already against teams who prefer to play man against man - Cardiff (City), United, I think Barcelona.

"So, we've done it a couple of times."

Nevertheless, Savage was impressed.

He said on the BBC: "Manchester United were better in the second half, they got to grips with that City shape.

"Ole Gunnar Solskjaer brought on (Nemanja) Matic and went to a 4-3-3, which really helped them.

"They've won the second half and, as manager, you want a reaction from your players and he got that.

"Of course it will hurt - it's a derby and a semi-final. Outplayed and outfought...

"Guardiola has come up with a plan to beat Manchester United once again.

"This was another masterclass from Pep."

Asked about his "masterclass" move of leaving out strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, Guardiola seemed bemused.

Said the Spaniard: "Why is it a masterclass?

"I would like to know what people say at the beginning when we play without Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

"We win and we're a genius, but if we don't win I know what will happen. We try to control the counter-attacks because they're a wonderful team."

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