Were City that good or were United that bad?

Man City Etihad

Manchester City’s 4-1 victory over Manchester United at the Etihad on Sunday sent a message of intent to the champions but is the result as clear-cut as looks on paper?

Firstly, Manchester United are the reigning champions of England, despite the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, the players are top class professionals and on Sunday they looked half-asleep, especially in the first half.

By the time United woke from their slumber it was way too late – City’s third goal just after half time was game over for the Red Devils. Meanwhile, City were first to every ball, they were organized, they were focused and determined and they deserved the win but United were very poor.

One could argue it was City’s strength that cancelled United out of the game – there is certainly a case to be made that United never really got into the game until the last half an hour, primarily because City simply wouldn’t allow it.

Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure epitomized the City display – defensively they harassed United’s attackers, especially Wayne Rooney, out of the game and showed them no way through in central areas of the park and the final third.

However, United’s wide players slacked off – Antonio Valencia completely switched off to allow Kolarov free reign down the flank and on the overlap all afternoon. Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri were afforded far too much time and space to maneuver in with no one taking responsibility to pick them up and Marouane Fellaini was completely pedestrian, he may as well have had a lie-in on Sunday.

City attacked the ball at every opportunity with conviction to go forward and defensively they cancelled United out completely. They didn’t even give the Red Devils a sniff at Joe Hart’s goal really.

At the other end, United gifted City chance after chance and at half-time the score line at 2-0 reflected that. When then sides came back out one would have thought United would have been given a kick up the backside and told to wake up but 2 minutes after the restart and they went to sleep again. At 3-0 down there was no coming back.

Yet United had 59 per cent of possession over 90 minutes – what were they doing with it? Nothing. They passed the ball around (and City allowed them to) because they never really looked like penetrating their defence. United had 14 shots but managed to get just 3 on target – Rooney’s 87 minutes goal served as nothing more than a consolation – that means United had just 2 shots on target over 91 minutes.

Yes, they didn’t have Robin van Persie who watched the game from the stands but these players are champions and yet not one of them looked to take the game by the scruff of the neck at any point. When Tom Cleverley came on after 52 minutes, United’s midfield did seem more composed and they got into a passing rhythm but by then it was way too late in the day for that.

Moyes could have brought on Javier Hernandez, Nani or Shinji Kagawa but he left his two remaining substitutions unused – when you’re losing a game of that magnitude, I would have expected him to use his available changes.

Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, brought on Edin Dzeko, James Milner, and Javi Garcia for a run out at 4-0 up – he took off Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas who were not even City’s star performers on the day. The likes of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, and Samir Nasri played 94 minutes and Sergio Aguero played 86 minutes. They were outstanding throughout.

United were poor but I can’t for the life of me understand why Moyes would keep players that were having a bad game on the pitch and at least try and breathe some life into to his side. Even at 3-0 down after 47 minutes, United could have clawed a couple of goals back and it would have changed the momentum and put City under pressure. It would have, at the very least, pushed City back and kept them from scoring the fourth.

Kagawa, Nani and Hernandez are the kind of players who are capable of grabbing a goal and I think, whilst Cleverley had a decent impact in term of possession and ball retention, he isn’t incisive enough as a player to take the game by the scruff of the neck. 4-1 looks pitiful. 3-2 would have still been a defeat but one that they could have taken something positive from.

Were Manchester City that good? Yes, they were outstanding but only because, in the first half, United allowed them to be and in the second half David Moyes failed to improve his side’s chances even remotely. 3-0 down is a big deficit, especially in a game of that magnitude, but United still had 43 minutes plus stoppage to make a go of it and, by not throwing everything he had at the game, Moyes failed to give his side even a fighting chance or a hope in hell.

image: © alfonso jimenez

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