Kyle Walker marked his 100th Premier League appearance for Manchester City with a goal against his former club as Pep Guardiola’s side beat Sheffield United.
The right-back, who came through the ranks at the Blades, struck midway through the first half with a superb long-range strike.
It was a deserved goal for a Manchester City side who dominated the first half, and they could have added another but for an excellent save by Aaron Ramsdale from Ferran Torres’ header.
Ramsdale did well again in the second half when he dived at full stretch to keep out a Riyad Mahrez free-kick.
But from then on the visitors struggled to find a second goal that would kill the game off and United should have capitalised when substitute John Lundstram fired just over from Sander Berge’s cross.
That was as close as the Blades came as City took their third league win of the season to move into the top half of the table.
Sheffield United remain winless and in the relegation zone with just one point from their first seven games.
Walker’s impressive form continues
After he played a starring role in the 3-0 win against Marseille in the Champions League in midweek, Walker was described by Guardiola as being in the best form of his City career.
While City’s displays have been patchy this season – and they were again far from their attacking best in this game – the consistently high-quality performances from Walker have been a big positive.
Such is Guardiola’s faith in the 30-year-old right-back that his position is the only one he has not rotated, with Walker the only player to have started every game this season.
His goal against his hometown club was a wonderfully clean strike, hit with power and precision from 25 yards and into the bottom corner.
In the second half, a burst of pace saw him get in behind the United defence and his cut-back was half cleared to Kevin de Bruyne, who flashed a shot just wide.
While City are yet to truly sparkle in attack, their recent defensive displays are encouraging. This was a second successive clean sheet with Walker and Joao Cancelo impressing in the full-back positions while Aymeric Laporte and Ruben Dias are developing into a strong central defensive partnership.
“I’m happy to get on the scoresheet and obviously happy to get the three points, which was the main thing coming up here,” said Walker, who did not celebrate his goal.
“My mum and dad live here, so if I’d celebrated I’d have got a lot of stick. I’m a Sheffield United fan, so I couldn’t celebrate.
“I’m enjoying my football. We don’t sit back and defend. We want to score three or four, but it’s great to get the clean sheet on the board as well.”
Blunt Blades need to sharpen up
Having enjoyed a fairy tale return to the Premier League last season, when they finished ninth, it is looking increasingly likely that this is going to be a long and difficult campaign for the Blades.
They have taken just one point from their first seven games – compared to eight at the same stage of last season – and while a win against City was always going to be a tall order, they rarely looked like they believed they could cause an upset.
The hosts barely laid a glove on City in the first half but a good 15-minute spell after the break – when they provided a glimpse of their old selves – produced their best chance when Lundstram fired over.
Scoring goals is proving difficult for the Blades this season despite the addition of striker Rhian Brewster from Liverpool for a club-record £23.5m.
They had just one shot on target in this game and have not scored more than one goal in a game so far this season, leaving them heavily reliant on a defence that has yet to keep a clean sheet.
“If people think we can go toe to toe with Man City they’re deluded, really deluded,” said Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder.
“We have to find a way to catch up with these teams who have spent about a billion pounds on their structure and their players.
“It’s frustrating because I think we’ve got a lot more quality in those areas.”
Wilder’s rare winless run – the stats
- Manchester City have won more top-flight matches on 31 October than any other team in English top-flight history (11).
- Sheffield United have picked up just one point from their first seven league games in a season for the first time since 1975-76.
- Manchester City have won four consecutive league games against Sheffield United for the first time since March 1930.
- Sheffield United have failed to win any of their past 11 games in all competitions – the longest winless run of Chris Wilder’s managerial career.
- After losing three consecutive away games between March and July, City are unbeaten in their past six on the road in the competition.
- Since the restart in June, Sheffield United have failed to score in more Premier League games than any other team (nine).
- Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne has been directly involved in four goals in three Premier League games versus Sheffield United (one goal, three assists), assisting in all three appearances.
- Six of City defender Kyle Walker’s eight Premier League goals have been scored from outside the box, with today’s strike his first away goal in the competition.