In a Manchester derby that sought to lay foundations and imply indications of just how much the new managers around were coping, it is Manuel Pellegrini that will be feeling the happier.
Not only were his team impressive – they also had an emphatic score line to show for it. Pellegrini’s only other encounters against Manchester United has produced four goalless draws. At the Etihad however, his Manchester City produced four goals to rout Manchester United and leave the Red Devils severely wounded.
As if comparisons and contrasts to the Sir Alex Ferguson era have not provided enough distraction for David Moyes, the new United manager will now be left with pondering questions. As such, questions arise as to his squad selection – with calls still ringing as to why Shinji Kagawa does not play (and independently, why Ashley Young does). But beyond that, this was a day in which none of his performers performed as expected.
The bullish Marouane Fellaini was bullied around by Yaya Toure and Fernandinho, meaning the protection he was supposed to provide to Michael Carrick did not materialise. Ashley Young kept conceding possession and lacked any sort of delivery. Curiously, Antonio Valencia was overwhelmed by the attacking forays of Aleksandr Kolarov.
It meant that the United midfield was outmanouvered, overpowered and outrun. City held the possession that ensured they could stretch the United defence. In turn, those expensive attacking investments – all of Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas – had the movement required to pick the faltering locks.
Aguero haunted once more with a brace that typified his knack for scoring in the derby. His first was opportunist, adjusting to Kolarov’s cross that though whipped in with cross was a bit behind him. His second was easier – finding space amidst a stretched United defence.
These goals complemented those of Yaya Toure and Nasri. Four down within 50 minutes and memories of that infamous 6-1 at Old Trafford began to linger. But City resolved to toy with the opposition rather than continue to destroy. They could have easily got more.
But that also showed a lack of resolve from United. It was strange that in a derby, they showed no signs of putting up a fight. No aggression or sense of purpose. It is why probably Wayne Rooney seemed more aggressive than usual – and were it not for an early booking for consistent fouling, he may have boiled over.
As such, it was he that got the sole United goal. For him though, it was just another in a range of strikes against the old enemy. From his spectacular bicycle kick to a brace last season in this fixture, Rooney has made it a habit of getting the goal in this fixture. It may be customary, but on this day it proved consolatory more than anything else.
There is no doubt that United must improve – and do so greatly – if they are to avoid a disastrous season.
It is not however the magnitude of the defeat that haunts the Red Devils rather it is the uncertainty of what will follow. In the Ferguson era, United lost heavily – 4-1 to Liverpool at Old Trafford and to Middlesborough at the Riverside come to mind – but it is the fact that Ferguson could conjure up a valid counter-reaction. That is what Moyes must now do. He is learning very quickly on the job the pressures that entail following a big man’s shoes.
For Pellegrini however, this will give a sense of satisfaction that he is on the right path. The change in philosophy was never going to be seamless – but it is this sort of performances that he hopes his side constantly provides. For no matter how bad United were on the day, City were so good and managed to make it count. The score line so evidently proves that.
As such, the beginning to what could be a great season may be underway. The derby may prove to be the turning point.
An old rivalry may thus have set the path that the new managers must now tread.