Manchester City 3, Manchester United 0. David Moyes’ tactics, his squad selection, his training methods, his recent “defeatist” attitude in the press, and his inexperience at this level of the game can all be called into question after defeats like these.
But surely even the most cynical of fans cannot have watched the opening quarter of an hour at Old Trafford and failed to see the lazy, torpid, completely clueless display put forth by the reigning Premier League champions. A goal scored as early in the game as Edin Dzeko’s opener will always change the complexion of a game. This game, however, was always going to be won by the men in powder blue.
United’s strategy appeared to be borne out of contempt for Yaya Toure; a packed United midfield indicated exactly that. Wayne Rooney started the game up front, with Danny Welbeck and Juan Mata the wide players. Michael Carrick was at the base of a midfield three, with Tom Cleverley and Marouane Fellaini just in front. At first glance, this was an intriguing line-up.
Unfortunately for Manchester United, there were two major problems with their initial set-up. One, Wayne Rooney was very much isolated as neither Danny Welbeck nor Juan Mata ever got close enough to provide anything resembling link-up play. When the Red Devils sprayed the ball wide, their lack of speed in the center of the park showed, as runners either arrived late, or not at all.
The second problem facing United was City’s excellent pressing. Defenders, midfielders, and lone forwards in red were closed down in impressive fashion. The opening goal was not down to luck. City’s frantic pace had United on the back foot from the word ‘go’. The Red Devils never recovered.
After twelve or thirteen minutes, Tom Cleverley and Juan Mata switched position, with United appearing to switch formation altogether.
Now Rooney had a strike partner, and perhaps a chance to wreak havoc on Kompany and Co. But the trident behind the forwards was just. Too. Slow. This has been a key feature in United’s play, especially against the big sides. Slow players who play slow passes will never be much of a nuisance.
City’s midfield melded brawn with brains rather well. Fernandinho and Toure were strong in possession with Silva, Nasri, and Navas fleet of both foot and thought. For David Moyes’ men this was not to be, especially after this switch in formation. Nowhere was there any structure, and United’s players were left chasing shadows for the remainder of the match.
Still, as incoherent as his team’s tactics may have been David Moyes should not bear the brunt of the blame for yesterday’s loss. A manager can only do so much, and if Moyes had one ounce of Jose Mourinho in him, he would bullishly declare that his players did not perform within the construct he created; whatever game plan he entrusted Fellaini, Carrick, and Cleverley with was not carried out.
How do the players explain their performance yesterday then? How would they choose to word their statements? It has become cliché, but yesterday’s performance perfectly encapsulated United’s season. The two wonderful results in four days against Olympiacos and West Ham, erased. A disjointed performance against a team firing on all cylinders made sure of that.
Do you think Moyes or the players were to blame for yesterday’s defeat?
Luis recently discovered the world of football. He enjoys learning as much as possible about British football, particularly about Manchester United. In a relatively short period of time, he has begun watching, playing, reading, and writing about the game- all to an exhausting degree. Luis lives in southern California with his wife and Rooney, their German Shepherd.