Analysing Claudio Bravo's Manchester City debut against Manchester United

With much of the build-up to the Manchester derby focusing on the rivalry between the two managers, it was easy to forget one of the other major subplots taking place at Old Trafford yesterday – the debut of new Manchester City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

The 33-year-old was signed from Barcelona two weeks ago as a replacement for Joe Hart but was forced to wait until yesterday before making his City debut. Upon joining a new club, players must hope for a relatively trouble-free start, where they can ease in to their new surroundings and hopefully show a few glimpses of what they are capable of. To make your debut at the home of your new club’s biggest rivals, with the eyes of the world on the most hotly anticipated game of the season is hardly an ideal scenario for a new player, but that was the situation that Bravo found himself in.

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After a relatively calm start, where he was barely tested, the Chilean’s debut quickly turned into a baptism of fire. With Pep Guardiola’s side 2-0 up heading into half time, a mix-up with John Stones caused Bravo to spill Wayne Rooney’s free-kick at the feet of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who volleyed into a gaping goal to give Manchester United a lifeline.

This would not be the last mistake that he made. Guardiola’s reasoning for replacing Hart was that he prefers his goalkeepers to be good with their feet and play out from the back, but Bravo looked less than comfortable at doing so here. His mistake for the goal seemed to have rattled him as, just moments before half-time, a mix-up with Bacary Sagna presented Ibrahimovic with a golden chance to put United level, but the Swede’s tame effort was cleared off the line.

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The interval presented Bravo with an opportunity to regain his composure ahead of the second-half, but things did not get much better as his tendency to over-elaborate things when in possession got him into trouble on a number of occasions. First, some clumsy footwork caused him to show too much of the ball to Wayne Rooney, and the England forward could easily have been awarded a penalty had Mark Clattenburg deemed Bravo’s desperate lunge to be a foul.

The former Real Sociedad shot stopper has been one of the best goalkeepers in La Liga over the past few seasons but his performance so far was doing little to showcase his ability. Again, Rooney sensed an opportunity when Bravo dawdled on the ball too long when looking for a teammate, but this time the keeper was able to scramble it away before being awarded a free-kick when the United captain caught him.

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Despite a shaky start from Bravo, City held out for a crucial 2-1 victory which ensured that they maintained their 100 per cent start to the season. Although there was cause for concern amongst supporters, Guardiola backed his new keeper in his post-match interview:

“He was amazing with his feet, saves, going to attack the ball. I am happy for him. It is not easy the first game after two training sessions coming here and play with that personality.”

Many City supporters are still sceptical of the decision to replace Hart, and whilst they are willing to trust Guardiola’s judgement on this, the performance of their new number one will hardly inspire confidence. Of course, it was not the easiest of games to make a debut in and Bravo will have the backing of his new manager for the foreseeable future, but there will need to be an improvement over the next couple of weeks in order to convince supporters that he is the man to replace Hart.

Featured image: all rights reserved by Serg Hoholok

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