Five things learned from Manchester United's defeat to Manchester City: Smalling, De Gea & Di Maria feature

Manchester United 3

Five conclusions from Manchester United's 1-0 defeat in the Manchester derby on Sunday.

Enough is enough from Chris Smalling

This has been Manchester United's worst ever start to a Premier League season but, it has to be said, United were unlucky today. The decisive factor behind their defeat was undoubtedly Chris Smalling's sending off.

The centre-back committed two rash fouls and effectively cost his side the entire game. Louis van Gaal was not happy with him after the game and enough is enough.

Smalling is not good enough for a club of United's stature. His stupidity will continue to cost them as long as he is at Old Trafford.

David de Gea - the league's best keeper?

Coping with a makeshift defence and the equally harmful presence and absense of Smalling was David de Gea. And the Spaniard's saves almost salvaged a point for Van Gaal's men at the Etihad Stadium.

The 23-year-old was in supreme form once again against Manchester City and can reasonably be touted as the Premier League's best goalkeeper. Hugo Lloris, Thibaut Courtois, Fraser Forster and more will have something to say about that, of course, but De Gea is one talented stopper.

Di Maria is no Angel

During an exciting summer transfer window, Arsene Wenger brought Alexis Sanchez to Arsenal for £35 million. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho brought Cesc Fabregas to Chelsea for £30 million.

Van Gaal's answer was to bring Angel Di Maria to Man United for £59.7 million. And the Argentine has looked worth every penny... until his last two games for the Dutchman's side.

Against Chelsea, Di Maria was bang average before winning the free-kick that led to United's equaliser. Against Manchester City, though, the 26-year-old simply went missing.

United never leave Old Trafford

In five Premier League games at home this term, Manchester United have actually done very well. Three wins and one draw have followed their opening-day defeat to Swansea City at Old Trafford.

Away from home, however, United have drawn three times and lost twice. It is a surprisingly bad record and their troubles on the road date back to last season. Something needs to give - a league campaign can't just be played at home.

Top four is a very realistic aim

Despite this defeat, more bad luck and several gaping problems for Van Gaal's side, though, finishing in the top four is still a very realistic aim for United.

Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur are struggling hugely this campaign, while Arsenal would be suffering just as much were it not for Sanchez's exploits.

In terms of realistic opposition for a Champions League spot, then, it looks as though Man United will have to face off against Sam Allardyce's West Ham United side and Ronald Koeman's Southampton for now.

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