Pep Guardiola dedicated Manchester City’s Carabao Cup semi-final win at rivals Manchester United to the late, great Colin Bell.
The blue half of the city could celebrate a derby victory on Wednesday evening as the visitors upped the ante after an entertaining first half at an empty Old Trafford.
Rejuvenated centre-back John Stones’ first goal since November 2017 early in the second half set City on course for victory, with Fernandinho wrapping up a 2-0 win with his first since October 2018.
City now have the chance to claim a fourth straight Carabao Cup after a win that Guardiola dedicated to club great Bell, who died at the age of 74 on Tuesday after a short illness.
“It was a sad day for all the Man City family, of course,” said the City boss, who wore a t-shirt reading ‘Legend Bell’ and a photo of him in his post-match press conference.
“We are now in the present but before it was the past and it was created by exceptional players.
“When Colin Bell has a stand at the Etihad, when his name is the King (of the Kippax), it’s because he was something special.
“Today it was quite remarkable what we achieved but today it’s an honour for us to dedicate this victory from all the people, the players, the backroom staff to Colin Bell and his family, for our Man City fans that miss him a lot.
“It’s a great night for us, and especially for Colin and his family.”
City emerged in retro number eight shirts on Wednesday evening, when both teams wore black armbands for a match in which defender Stones shone at both ends.
“All credit for him,” Guardiola said. “Football is a long career. You always have ups and downs. You have good moments, you have bad moments.
“Unfortunately he struggled longer than we expected and he expected but his comeback is absolutely down to him.
“We can say whatever we want to help him and hopefully he can continue in this way.”
While City can look forward to the Carabao Cup final against Tottenham on April 25, United are left nursing the wounds of a fourth straight semi-final defeat.
Asked if it was a mental issue in semi-finals, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said: “I don’t think it’s a mental issue.
“Tonight it was about just that lack of quality compared to them. I thought we played against a good Man City team, they deserved to win.
“But I feel we’re disappointed when we concede two set-plays. You know, we defended well and we kept the ball really well at spells, especially in the first half.
“If they carve you open, that’s one way of losing. But to concede two set-plays, that’s disappointing and we just didn’t have the margins with us.
“Of course their keeper made a fine save in the first half from Bruno Fernandes’ shot and the first goal is always going to be important in a game like this.”