Five things we learnt from the Manchester Derby

by Neil Sherwin
1. Vincent Kompany is the most important player to City’s title challenge

It’s no coincidence that the only league goals City had conceded this season before the 87th minute yesterday had come when skipper Vincent Kompany was sidelined through injury.

The 27 year old returned to action in the Champions League last week and put in a Derby Day master class yesterday with Jamie Carragher describing it as one of the best defensive performances he’s seen.

With a 100% clearance record (12 for 12), Kompany kept a tight ship at the back, and his break up of play led to City’s fourth goal as Samir Nasri volleyed home Jesus Navas’ right wing cross.

Kompany’s influence on his team mates is just as important as his individual performances, with Matija Nastasic in particular looking far more accomplished alongside the Belgian.

While Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero continue to do the business at the opposite end of the pitch, it’s hard to argue with the sentiment that strikers win you games but defenders win you titles.

2. United must keep hold of Wayne Rooney

Rooney is probably the only United player to emerge from the 4-1 drubbing with anything resembling praise after putting in a performance that was head and shoulders above any of his team mates.

The pre-game loss of Robin van Persie to injury was massive blow and allowed City’s defenders to focus more of their attention on to Rooney, but he didn’t shy away from the challenge and attempted more passes than all but two United players (Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini) when other lesser players would have been largely anonymous.

Of course, there was the usual bit of niggly fouling that resulted in a yellow card but at least he made an effort to get at the City players, something that can’t be said for most of his colleagues.

There may still be a cloud over Rooney’s future at Old Trafford after another summer of “will he, won’t he?” transfer talk but when he puts his head down, as has been the case in recent games, there are few more influential players in the league.

That free kick was stunning too.

3. Manuel Pellegrini’s City will be exciting to watch

He plays attacking, risk-taking football with a lot of possession of the ball. All fans like that kind of football, so I am sure City fans will take to his team.

Those are the words of Alvaro Negredo upon joining City in July, and yesterday was evidence that Pellegrini’s team won’t rest on their laurels once they have built up a commanding lead.

There were times in the first half that only Kompany, Nastasic and Fernandinho stayed at home while the other seven outfield players took the game to United. Indeed, there were occasions when both full backs, Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksandar Kolarov, were in the United penalty area at the same time.

Yaya Toure’s goal right on half time put City two goals to the good and it would have been no surprise had they come out after the interval with a more defensive mindset.

However, within five minutes of the restart the cushion had been doubled as United were blown away by two clinical attacks to end the game as a contest.

Interestingly, United completed 412 passes (86%) compared to City’s 269 (81%) yet had four fewer attempts at goal as Pellegrini’s side showed great efficiency to convert four out of their five shots that hit the target.

4. Ashley Young has to go

It’s probably unfair to single out just one United player given the overall showing but Ashley Young again failed to justify his selection ahead of both Nani and Shinji Kagawa, neither of whom even made if off the bench.

Young completed just nine of his 15 passes (60%), and caused Pablo Zabaleta very little problems on the United left. An over hit pass to Danny Welbeck in the first half that went harmlessly out of play summed up another ineffective outing.

Poor performances, coupled with the latest diving fiasco, have seen United fans’ patience wear very thin with the England international

A 28 he’s no spring chicken and could very well find his days numbered with exciting prospects Wilfried Zaha and Adnan Januzaj also waiting in the wings.

5. City have fantastic strength in depth

None of Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, Gael Clichy, Jack Rodwell, David Silva, Stevan Jovetic and Martín Demichelis saw game time yesterday for various reasons, while James Milner and Edin Dzeko were restricted to short appearances from the substitutes bench.

As always, injuries will play a key role in who takes out the title this season and City are as well equipped as any other side to cope with losing one or two individuals at a time.

Having said that, history has shown that they do struggle when the likes of Kompany, Toure, Aguero and David Silva have had extended absences so there are a number of players who simply must stay fit for the duration.

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