Man City smash Man United

Soccer Football - Carabao Cup - Semi Final First Leg - Manchester United v Manchester City - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - January 7, 2020 Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates scoring their first goal as Manchester United's Phil Jones and Fred look dejected REUTERS/Phil Noble

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Holders Manchester City took a big step towards a return to the League Cup final with a 3-1 win over Manchester United in their semi-final, first leg at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

City outclassed their neighbours in the first half, going in 3-0 at the break before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side regrouped and avoided what could have been a more emphatic defeat.

United suffered a blow before the kickoff with central defender Harry Maguire failing a fitness test and Phil Jones was handed a rare start.

City boss Pep Guardiola opted to play without a recognised striker, giving Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva licence to push forward centrally.

With Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez on the wings, the approach worked superbly against a flimsy-looking United defence.

It was a brilliant strike from Bernardo Silva to put City ahead in the 17th minute, the winger cutting in from the right before unleashing a superb shot into the far, top corner.

The busy Portugal international then created City’s second, collecting a poor headed clearance from Victor Lindelof and dancing past a challenge before threading the ball to Riyad Mahrez who rounded goalkeeper David de Gea and slotted home.

City then punished United on a counter-attack, which ended with De Bruyne leaving Jones on the floor and blasting goalwards before De Gea’s parry ricocheted off United midfielder Andreas Pereira into the net.

United looked more solid after the introduction of midfielder Nemanja Matic at the break and got a foothold in the tie through a 70th-minute goal from Marcus Rashford.

The England striker was picked out by a perfectly-weighted pass from Mason Greenwood and coolly slipped the ball past keeper Claudio Bravo.

“We could have gone in four or five up at halftime, we had the chances. They pressed us higher in the second half, we got tired but overall we are happy,” said Bernardo Silva.

“I enjoyed my role – because it worked and we won. Pep wanted one more man in the middle.”

Leicester City face Aston Villa in the first leg of the other semi-final on Wednesday.