This was meant to be a showcase occasion, the game which would give an indicator of the credibility of two potential title challengers. What transpired at the Etihad, however, left one side firmly in the other’s shadow. Man City defeated, decimated and annihilated their fiercest rivals Manchester United in a performance, which is worth savoring for generations to come. David Moyes’ side were not even in the contest, right from the kick-off, as Kun Aguero and Co. humiliated United and brought memories of that fateful 6-1 demolition at the Theatre of Dreams.
In a way this United showing was even worse than the drubbing two years ago, City had a man’s advantage that afternoon but yesterday United were completely outclassed and out passed. The result should give Pellegrini oodles of confidence, whereas in the Red half of the city, there will be lots to ponder on as the pressure intensifies on the already beleaguered Scot.
Team Sheets. Advantage City
Before the kick-off, United were banking on the brilliance of the duo of Van Persie and Rooney, to get them over the line. Last season the RVP-Rooney combo scored all three of United’s goals in their victory at the Etihad. But, the Dutch forward was ruled out following a strain and Welbeck was drafted in his place, weakening United and giving the home side a massive fillip before the start.
The Rooney-Welbeck combination has been effective in the past, but not on this occasion. Neither man could force themselves onto the game as Kompany bullied and harried them into giving the ball away cheaply. Rooney was supposed to be leading the line with Welbeck dropping into the hole but even after exchanging positions midway through the first half, the duo appeared peripheral and the game slipped from their hands. Vincent Kompany was outstanding at the back City look twice the side with his commanding presence.
Kolarov and Nasri wreak havoc
In the absence of Rafael, Moyes opted for Chris Smalling as the rightback although in retrospect it appears that he might have erred in not playing Fabio in his customary position. Smalling is a very decent center back, but as a fullback he fails to impress; Samir Nasri, throughout the first half, ran rings around the Englishman and with support from the overlapping Kolarov, the duo even made Smalling look like an amateur at times. Antonio Valencia failed to help out his teammate and was majorly responsible for the first of City’s four goals, which was also the opening of the floodgates.
Valencia has had a torrid season last term and must improve his output, because United can’t just afford to have their wingers under-perform consistently. One wonders, how a fit and inform Nani would have performed, but Moyes decided to go with the Ecuadorian – Valencia’s strong midweek showing against Leverkusen might have played a part.
Rio-Vidic: Time to move on(e)?
The duo have served United with aplomb for many years now and perhaps formed the most dependable centerback partnership in the club’s history. But Rio will turn 35 in November and has slowed down considerably; Vidic was never the quickest of defenders to begin with and ergo the duo has often held a very deep defensive line to compensate for the lack of the pace. Invariably the midfield sits deep and United can’t play a high line and press the opposition. It causes disconnect between the midfield and the forwards.
Perhaps it’s time that Evans steps in for Rio and forms a partnership with Nemanja Vidic. Evans has shown in recent times that he has the quality to make it as United’s premier center back.
Where were the substitutions?
David Moyes could perhaps be forgiven for choosing the wrong starting lineup, but after being completely battered for 45 minutes, why did the manager not bring in the changes at half time? Two goals down and looking completely devoid of any ideas, fresh minds and creativity was the need of the hour but the changes never arrived. City took the game beyond United’s reach, as they smashed in another two goals in quick succession.
United sides of yesteryear would have risen to the challenge, but the only change made was Tom Cleverley for the inexplicably poor Ashley Young. Young is perhaps the most hated United player among their supporters and seeing him off the pitch was a welcome change. With likes of Kagawa, Chicharito and Nani on the bench, one can only imagine how the Englishman started or stayed on the pitch for so long.
It’s too early to criticize the manger, but he must take some semblance of the blame for his continuous negative team selections and lack of proactive substitutions.
Man City might have stumbled upon to their best eleven?
On most occasions this season, the newly appointed City manager Manuel Pellegrini has seen his side flatter to deceive. But yesterday they looked like a well-oiled machine and everything seemed to fall in place. City were defensively solid with Kompany back in their ranks and the strike partnership of Aguero and Negredo looks like hitting the right chord.
Negredo was stupendous in his hold up play and acted as the perfect foil for the outstanding Argentine. On the wings Nasri and Navas were contrasting in their approach, yet highly effective and always provided City with an outlet. In the middle of the park the Yaya-Fernandinho axis finally looked to have found the balance and that serves as an ominous sign for the rest of the league.
Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany
Man City captain was inspirational and easily the most commanding player on the pitch. Kompany negated the threat posed by Wayne Rooney and kept the Englishman on a tight leash throughout the game. The burly Belgian is easily City’s most valuable asset and his absence makes them highly vulnerable at the back.
Man City Verdict: Easily their best display of the season and what a time to bring it out! The manager got the team balance right and the players answered the call of duty. City are definite title challengers but Pellegrini’s side must now improve their away form.
Man United Verdict: Moyes has a lot of thinking to do. The fixture list has not been kind but the manager hasn’t endeared himself by his negative outlook. Moyes should look at other members of his squad, as the ones he has persisted with so far have let the club down considerably.