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Mar 272014

Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City
rafael city home twitter mcfc Domestically ViolatedConspicuous in its absence was the kind of thuggish meanness that came from Manchester City in the Mancini/Balotelli years. Nevertheless, by the time Yaya Touré casually half-sprinted through United’s witless, leggy defense to pump a diagonal shot past a stranded David De Gea to make it 3-0 in the 90th minute, it really was a route. City had so abused United’s defense that Patrice Evra was more intent on the conversation he was having with Samir Nasri before and after the goal than anything going on in a game he had long ago quit trying in. Allowed the captain’s armband and the usual round of opportunities to run his mouth around the press corps, Evra will blame everyone else but himself. Once again, as in every other important game this season, the club’s lack of desire in matches against quality opposition accompanied by a lack of speed and the fatalistic passivity of a manager who knows he can’t get fired–all of it conspired to doom David Moyes’ version of Manchester United to its tenth loss of the season.

The question minutes before the match began was, why had David Moyes picked Tom Cleverley to accompany Michael Carrick, Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata in midfield?

“We wanted to make sure we had enough midfield players,” Moyes told the press after the match. “We wanted to make sure we had an extra player in middle of the park.” My only answer can be, “Hunh?”
Even the most fundamental smattering of logic defies Moyes’ use of such irrational neandarthal tactics. Doubtless, going up against a midfield featuring Yaya Touré, Fernandinho and David Silva might intimidate anyone. Yet, putting bodies in the middle of the park simply won’t work against quality teams when you have neither the horses nor the speed. On a month of Sundays, even armed with a .9mm Glock with hollow-point tip slugs, Tom Cleverley will never own the courage, skill, will or moxy to stop Yaya Toure. Moyes might as well have fielded a traffic cone.

Consequently, with Michael Carrick owning no desire to challenge Fernandinho and the agonizingly slow pairing of Marouane Fellaini and Juan Mata waiting in vain for balls which never arrived, the presence of all four became peripheral from the very moment the game began. And as the clock ticked down, Moyes became so desperate that he ordered Cleverley and Fellaini to the wings, marooning a pathetic, twitching, tackle-punchy Carrick alone by the center spot like a newborn abandoned at the door off a Dickensian orphanage.

Was it 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-1-1-1 line-up that Moyes attempted? Using a fast-break tar-baby 4-1-3-2 strategy with Fellaini sat in front of his defense as a fulcrum-like sweeper, which worked in one game for Mourinho’s Chelsea and kept things tight in another, would have at least given United a fighting chance. What we got instead was players with vast spaces between each other, which, naturally, lead to the kind of clearly telegraphed Bolton Wanderers-style hit-and-hope long passes that City casually picked off at will. Lacking both cohesion and will, United were already done 43 seconds in as David Silva gave eight static players the slip before setting up a beautiful Edin Dzeko strike to go 1-0 up in Our own house.

I desperately want to be fair to Moyes and some bloggers suggestions that the successful line-up against West Ham United, where Fletcher and Fellaini played in fixed positions allowing Kagawa, Rooney and Mata to joyfully interchange as tréquarterístas and run the Hammers ragged. It wouldn’t have worked against City, but it would have at least made United look respectable rather than just humiliated. At any rate, Moyes’s pub team system, forfeiting width with a view to having Cleverley smother Yaya Touré, lasted 43 seconds.

United have not lost six league games at Old Trafford since 1978. Even as things stand right now, they will finish with their worst ever points total in the Premier League era. For the first time in 40 years City have beaten United three times in a row at Old Trafford. City were bigger, stronger, quicker and more motivated. Only seconds in, Rafael da Silva made a last ditch tackle on David Silva after Touré had slipped him the ball. Fernandinho picked up the loose ball, tapped it to Samir Nasri and his shot bounced off the post before a completely unmarked Dzeko was there to push the ball past badly exposed David De Gea.

Minutes later, we saw Valencia warming up. Cleverley, who is already well and truly clear about the state of his mediocrity in the eyes of the majority of the fans, was a dead man running already. And although Moyes and his brains’ trust of Phil Neville and Steve Round clearly vacillated about when to remove Cleverley, leaving him out there seemed like a pointlessly cruel exercise in humiliation. Watching Jesús Navas repeatedly confuse and degrade the once great Patrice Evra was only the second most obvious example of just how overmatched Manchester United are against the rest of the Premier Leagues’s top six. Perhaps a little more surprisingly, his right-sided partner, Rafael Da Silva was equally vulnerable. City simply overpowered the home team as Silva weaved those elaborate little passing patterns of his. And Touré demonstrated why Pellegrini described him before the match as “the complete midfielder.”

Repeatedly booed by frustrated United fans, Marouane Fellaini, beyond a few fine hefty tackles, had little to offer from his often awkward but distinctly useful passing game. Indeed, clearly feeling about as smothered as the sad faithful in the crowd, it seemed that the best he could conjure up was the elbow he delivered into Pablo Zabaleta’s head followed by a nice dollop of spit. The referee, Michael Oliver, was only a few steps away and the bushy Afrod one was supremely lucky not to receive at least a a yellow card.

Had City been moved by enough desire, they really could have nailed down the coffin lid on the Red Devils by the half hour mark had Silva felt enough urgency after picking Rio Ferdinand’s pocket. Cheeky, he shouldn’t have attempted shooting from such an obtuse angle and missed completely. We should thank him. A few moments later, Touré fired an exquisite pass to Silva to play in Dzeko after scooping up a poor De Gea clearance, but the big Bosnian striker was way off balance and his shot was saved.

In defense, Ferdinand and Jones were nervous wrecks. Panic ensued at every corner. Early in the second half, Vincent Kompany flicked on a corner and Fernandinho flashed the next header over the crossbar. Fair warning? Not for Ferdinand and Jones. At the next corner, in the 56th minute, Ferdinand latched onto Dzeko but collided with Fellaini. Left free, Dzeko beautifully timed his zigzagging run and expertly volleyed home Nasri’s sweet square cross.
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Ivor Irwin

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