Juan Mata’s second-half strike proved enough to book Manchester United’s place in the EFL Cup quarter-finals with victory over holders Manchester City at Old Trafford.
The Spaniard’s intelligent finish soon after the break ensured the Reds exacted revenge for last month’s defeat to City in the Premier League by taking the bragging rights in a lively 173rd Manchester derby at the Theatre of Dreams.
The Reds will soon discover their opponents once the draw for the last eight of the competition has been made.
Jose Mourinho didn’t opt for wholesale changes as he did in the last round against Northampton, making four changes from Sunday’s four-goal defeat at Stamford Bridge as Marcos Rojo, Luke Shaw, Michael Carrick and Mata came in for Chris Smalling, the injured Eric Bailly, Marouane Fellaini and Jesse Lingard.
In contrast, opposite number Pep Guardiola fulfilled his promise to rotate, with nine alterations for the second round in a row after their success at Swansea last month – only captain Vincent Kompany and Leroy Sane kept their places from the draw with Southampton last weekend.
As they did at Old Trafford last month, City began in a menacing mood and, within the first minute, Kelechi Iheanacho almost scored for the second successive derby but couldn’t direct his close-range header on target from a Jesus Navas cross.
The visitors continued to threaten and claimed for a penalty on 10 minutes when Aleix Garcia stumbled in the box under pressure from Reds skipper Carrick but referee Mike Dean ignored the appeals.
United struggled to trouble the City defence early on but Zlatan Ibrahimovic caused panic with a 20-yard free-kick, which deflected behind for a corner, after Mata was brought down by Nicolas Otamendi.
The lively affair many were hoping for under the floodlights began to materialise as the first half wore on, with Iheanacho and Antonio Valencia both receiving yellow cards for strong challenges, but both teams lacked the cutting thrust in the final third to open each other up.
Ibrahimovic saw a shot deflect off Otamendi over the crossbar after Shaw combined well with Marcus Rashford, who moments later found his route to goal blocked by Pablo Maffeo after momentarily escaping clear of the City defence.
At the other end, Iheanacho then looked to have a similar clear run at goal after Sane seized upon Daley Blind’s stray pass but Rojo charged across to make a fine intervention and bail out his team-mate as neither side could make the breakthrough in a closely-contested opening 45.