All the excitement, all the hype going into the game at Old Trafford, the first meeting in the league of two sides looking to be contending for honours this season, with Manchester City keen to be taken seriously as contenders this season. The game started in fairly ordinary fashion, with Manchester United perhaps enjoying more of the possession in the opening exchanges without really advancing on goal. Then, arguably against the run of play, it was fierce rivals, City who opened the scoring, with Balotelli slotting home with a cool finish. At this scoreline it was all to play for, one goal down there is always a possibility of getting back into it. But as City settled into the game, United struggled to find their way past a well organised defence, and so failed to create anything meaningful going forward. Half time, one down. A disappointing first half, time to regroup. Second half begins and within moments the game takes a turn for the worse for the United faithful, when a ball forward intended for Balotelli was not dealt with appropriately, with Jonny Evans scrambling back pulling on the big striker and nearly conceding a penalty. The consequence of this, however, was a red card with little argument to support any other decision. It was always going to be an uphill task from there, and when the 2nd and 3rd goals were added soon after, the game looked dead and buried. 80 minutes in and Darren Fletcher offers a consolation with a superb effort, 3-1. The start of an unlikely comeback? United kept going, trying to find something only for all hopes to be dashed with Dzeko tapping home with a minute left. 4-1, game over. This scoreline would probably have exceeded most City fans expectations from the day, only for Silva and Dzeko to round off the rout, 3 goals in the final minutes. Final score: 6-1, at Old Trafford. Humiliation and embarrassment for United. Scenes of jubilation for City. Abysmal from United. Strong from City. With that, here are five things that may be taken from the game.
1) City – worthy of their win
Before getting on to mentioning a few points regarding Sunday’s horrendous performance, it should be stated that at the same time Manchester City played extremely well, were well organised and highly effective going forward, punishing United’s shortcomings, particularly as they capitulated in the closing moments. Throughout the game they got men behind the ball and even though it was felt United had the better of the opening exchanges, it demonstrated City’s organisation when it was found after half an hour United had only had the one attempt at goal (off target at that) and City had had four. Every time United went forward they were crowded out by Mancini’s men defending in an organised manner and proving difficult to break down. It was hard to doubt their credentials as contenders this season, given the quality of the signings on board, but Sunday was a statement of their intentions for the rest of the year.
2) Recent performances went punished
Despite how well United started the season, in recent weeks certain frailties particularly defensively and in the midfield have come to light. The failure to rectify or improve upon these has culminating in it being punished in the most emphatic of fashion by a City side too strong to get away with such performances much longer. There have been times where Untied have been lucky to get away with points from certain games, with Chelsea, Norwich and Liverpool, as well as the Champions League games, giving reasons as to why United may well have been lucky not to drop more points than they did. As well as this going forward has not been as effective of late, perhaps in part due to the lack of strength in midfield and there have been times when David De Gea has saved them, such as against Liverpool.
3) Jonny Evans should’ve let Balotelli through
At 0-1 there is all to play for at the beginning of the second half. The last thing needed is a red card. Based on the performance, it’s unclear whether or not United would have truly got themselves back into the game but with a goal in it one never knows, there is always a possibility, but when reduced to ten men the game back becomes that much more difficult. If Evans had simply let him through than blatantly pulling him back, yes Balotelli would have been through on goal, perhaps he would have scored but at that point there is always the possibility of De Gea saving it and, importantly United would still have had a full side out. Many were questioning the logic in playing Evans ahead of Jones, and perhaps would have used Sunday’s performance as justification for that argument. Most would have preferred to see Jones start, particularly for his strong runs going forward as well as his defensive qualities, but at the same time one must remember that defensively United have looked exposed at the back even with him in the side. The point being the ineptitude of Evans is not the sole focus of United’s shambolic performance, although he will undoubtedly be made to shoulder most of the blame for some. It was interesting to hear Sir Alex Ferguson comment on the game, mentioning Rio Ferdinand and Evra as the experienced examples that should have kept United organised to see the game out when 4-1 down only to have his side opened up once again for City to take two more goals. It is probably fair to say that Ferdinand has not been up to his standards of late and the lack of Vidic in the side has perhaps highlighted this further. Although De Gea has improved lately, his presence as the root of the defence has still not come forth yet and the experienced defenders in front of him need to make up for this, and on the evidence of this particular game, it is an area seriously lacking.
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