Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
Manchester United have now mustered only seven points from their opening five games. It’s the club’s worst start since their 2004-05 campaign when they had six and ended up finishing third, 18 points behind Chelsea. A downcast David Moyes put it this way to the gathered jackals of Fleet Street. “I just told the players the way I would have told players at any other club if I don’t think they’re doing it. They’re good players, they’re good pros, they know when they’re bang at it and when they’re not.” Say oo-what? “Every manager has bad results. I’m no different. Manchester City were the better team, they got control in the early part and we found it difficult to contain them. I thought as the first half edged on we started to get back into the game a little bit more but unfortunately lost the second goal right on half-time. I’m disappointed we didn’t perform because there was no reason.”
Nemanja Vidic confessed that United were “Never in it. From the first minute, City tried to be aggressive and had more possession in the first 20 or 30 minutes,” the United captain said. “We didn’t really get in the game from the first minute. This is what we have to try to learn from. We can’t look back. It’s horrible to lose the derby. It’s always horrible. It’s worse when you lose in this way, 4-0 down. We were never close to winning the game.”
With striker Robin van Persie begging off with a groin problem, and Moyes choosing not to call upon Shinji Kagawa, Wilfried Zaha or Adnan Januzaj, there was the atmosphere of one of those ecstacy-fed zombie rave parties in the United camp after the match. Aside from Wayne Rooney and a captain who never once walked his talk in the slightest, United seemed neither upset nor humiliated. City’s captain, Vincent Kompany put it best,”Maybe the game meant a little bit more to us than for them. We were looking forward to this fixture. We need to win these kind of games. There was no reason why we should fear the opposition.”
The truth is that City’s key players on the day, Yaya Touré, Fernandinho, Jesús Navas, Samir Nasri, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Agüero, simply humiliated United. In United’s new ‘system,’ featuring a pair of central holding midfielders in a 4-2-3-1 formation, is the notion that each one, depending on the vicissitudes of the game, will exchange roles when it comes to being more attack-minded. This was okay against Crystal Palace last week and even the fair quality midfield of Bayer’s Rolfes and Bender in the midweek ECC match, but was utterly useless against City. Moyes must clearly make his mind up in big games just who exactly will be his main holding midfielder. In these early days of Fellaini’s career at the champions, he appears to be a first choice for Moyes over Carrick. Fellaini who, in many ways, was bought as an antidote to the likes of Yaya Touré and Mohammed Diamé of West Ham United, who boss their teams as holding midfielders and yet are able to shift gears and exchange roles with Fernandinho and Mark Noble, there’s no comfort in this position yet. He’s a natural square passer, whereas Carrick is one for long probing balls on the days when his game is working. This will obviously take a while to gel, or, in a bad scenario like tonight’s match, may never work at all. Doubtless, City performed really well, especially in the first half, but Moyes needs to fasten his seat belt and place an airbag over his groin area because he is about to undergo a lot of serious scrutiny over the next few days, not the least of which will involve Sir Alex Ferguson as he finally enters the boardroom after recovering from hip surgery. The aforementioned baying jackals of Fleet Street who have already torn Paolo Di Canio to pieces, now have Jose Mourinho and Our Moyesie in their sights.
City played with great energy from the get-go. They were all movement and penetration, something United could not find. They pressed and harassed United when they didn’t have the ball and made their careful passing count, performing like a team who were embarrassed to have gifted the title of champion United’s way last season. They harried and chased and, when they had the ball, made great use of it. The humiliation began in the 16th minute with a fine example of Kun Agüero’s extemporaneous craft. When a lazy Antonio Valencia did not notice Aleksandar Kolarov’s overlapping run from left-back. Nasri’s clever little flick left a slack-jawed Chris Smalling marooned on his own in a ton of space at right-back. The clever little Argentine striker then twisted himself like a pretzel, raised his left foot and somehow volleyed home Kolarov’s cross.
United’s skipper, Nemanja Vidic, raged righteously at Valencia for making the most fundamental of errors, but then he did exactly the same thing himself as he and his sidekick, Rio Ferdinand, like an aging burlesque slapstick team trading custard pies to the mush made a bollix out of it all. With both repeatedly repeatedly losing the ball through risky passes executed in the six yard box, the lion’s share of coverage fell to the shell-shocked Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick, who, instead of shielding United’s defense, came a cropper in every clash with Fernandinho and Touré.
Yet, somehow, United hung in there. Playing like a Sam Allardyce team, making long boots out from the box and giving away scores of throw-ins. A second goal was inevitable, however, and in the 46th minute, just into injury time, they gave away their sixth corner. Nasri aimed for Alvaro Negredo and Smalling leapt sideways to intercept. Instead, he blocked off a jumping Vidic while Fellaini, who was supposed to be marking Touré, also leapt high for the ball. Free as a bird, Yaya Touré sprinted to the far post, and had no trouble tapping home Alvaro Negredo’s knockdown.
2-0 down at the interval, United were expected by all and sundry to come out with a war face for the second half. Instead they collapsed and capitulated. Three minutes in, Ferdinand seemed to be in the midst of a conversation with Samir Nasri, leaving Agüero completely unmarked in the midst of a packed box to make it 3-0. Then, seconds later, Evra lost Nasri, who had the presence of mind to feint on Smalling before meeting Jesús Navas’s cross and curving it home past a stranded David De Gea.
City took their foot off the accelerator then and were content to gum up the midfield and stage sporadic counterattacks. Luckily, David Silva was injured and City’s new striker, Alvaro Negredo, who took turns giving fits to both Vidic and Ferdinand, missed at least four sitters. Their heroes for the day, beyond the unstoppable presence of Yaya Touré, was the shifting partnership of Jésus Navas and Nasri who traded positions at will. While Chris Smalling, clearly uncomfortable at right-back, simply quit early on, poor Patrice Evra simply played like an Alzheimer’s victim, unable to compute Navas and Nasri’s adaptability. As Moyes clearly doesn’t trust Alexander Büttner or Fabio to play at left-back, Evra is just as clearly now sport for even the weakest clubs in the PL.
United did get one back from an exquisitely taken Rooney free kick late on, but his lack of celebration said it all. His beautiful free kick made him the leading scorer of all time in Manchester derbies with eleven. Rooney carried United’s burden alone and no one was surprised when he got too emotional and was booked for an unnecessarily hard challenge on City captain Vincent Kompany. Rooney has been criticized a lot over the past few months, not least by yours truly, but he burned with an overt desire absent in everybody else on the team.
Although there was a certain kind of one-off freaky-deakiness about United’s horrible 6-1 loss at Old Trafford two seasons ago, there was no such aura here. Manchester City and its new boss, Manuel Pellegrini, gave David Moyes a nose-rubbing in his own poo. Moyes, who never won a derby at Liverpool in all his eleven years as Everton manager, will surely prove to own a few virtues in the coming weeks against more ordinary opposition. Clearly also, unless the club makes a complete nose-dive, he will not be fired in the immediate future. The minority of fans who already have a Facebook page demanding his ouster will not get much attention or satisfaction for the time being. What concerns me far less than losing to good teams is the team’s lack of bottle and grit for the games against Liverpool and Manchester City. It really is worrisome!