The Manchester Derby: Through Red Eyes

by Adam Mills

I usually try and wait till Monday afternoon to write anything about the weekend’s game – it give some time to collect my thoughts and consider what actually happened. Today, I won’t be doing anything of the sort.

As a Manchester United fan, Derby Day is always the best game of the season. Until today. The 6-1 drubbing, at home, against Manchester City is the worst result I have seen in my 18 years on this planet. I’ve lived the glory days at Old Trafford – a season without a trophy is a disappointment to me. And seeing my beloved team getting crushed like that makes it even worse.

Already, the media is asking what significance this game has on the title, and the footballing power shift in Manchester. In reality, one game won’t change history, but certainly one game can feel like it. We are all being far too hasty in considering the influence of this game, but what happened on that pitch this afternoon certainly gives us a good idea on where this Premier League is heading.

I said at the start of the game that I was scared and terrified of this derby. I remember my first derby – February 2003, and after nine seconds on the pitch, Shaun Goater headed in from a corner to give City a 1-1 draw. I also remember the 4-1 drubbing we received a few years back, and having to trudge into school the next day to have every anti-United kid take the mick in the playground. Playgrounds can be cruel, can’t they?

Today is the worst defeat I’ve ever witnessed. There was just so much wrong with the team that it became quite hysterical. I’ve said all season that with Anderson in midfield, there is no midfield. When we played with Cleverley, we had a static midfielder very similar to the role played by Paul Scholes – spraying balls up and down the pitch, attempting to attack and always winning the ball back. Without Cleverley, or the experience of Michael Carrick, playing the attacking-minded Anderson in that static role is catastrophic, and our midfield has been non-existent since.

The reason City bossed the midfield today was because United didn’t actually have one. For forty minutes in the second half, Darren Fletcher had to play at right-back, with Anderson being our only midfielder, trying to play against the might of Yaya Toure, James Milner, Gareth Barry, and arguably the best signing of the summer, David Silva.

Not only that, but our defence just dissolved into the background. Rio looks like he’s well past his best – slow, lethargic, and actually, as one of the most experienced players we have in the team, not loud enough. As someone who has captained the team on many occasions, he should be the one organising, moaning and ensuring the team play to their best. Instead, he was quiet and willing to blend in, and that’s why we had no structure. Jones should have started, Smalling had a shocker at right-back, and the less said about the immaturity and the youthful nature of Jonny Evans, the better.

Rio also has a car waiting to take him to the NFL game this evening at Wembley. If he chooses to go to the game, I am of a firm belief that that would spell the end of his Manchester United career. Already, we see him rested for big games and being left out of squads, and he’s been linked time and time again this season with a big-money move to the States. Factor in all the newspaper allegations against him, and it’s no wonder his head is all over the place. He deserves everything he gets if he chooses to go the game later.

What makes me worry the most, however, is Nemanja Vidic. He was fit today, and prepared to play, yet he didn’t even feature on the bench. As club captain of the team, does this indicate not all is as it seems? Since the Norwich game in early October, United have been poor – not quite themselves. Are there things going on behind the scenes that no-one wants us to know? Or are we going to see movement in January that could lead to big defensive changes? I hope not.

Tactics today for United were poor, but spot-on for City. Give them their due, Balotelli was inspired today, and Dzeko put in a shift in the last 10 minutes that every United player should have attempted to replicate. Silva was the player every fan hoped he would be – quick, intelligent, energetic, and skilful, and it was a joy to see. Defence was well organised, and the whole team was structured well whenever, on those very rare occasions, United attacked. Vincent Kompany as captain knows exactly what to do, and he could be their catalyst for trophies and that coveted Premier League title.

It does make you wonder what kind of an impact Wesley Sneijder would have had on that game. The transfer that never was this summer could have made all the difference. Early performances from Anderson, Cleverley, Carrick and Fletcher indicated that we didn’t need him, but boy do we need someone with an attacking mind, and proven ability now. It’s a scary proposition that it’s only October, and we play like that.

City didn’t even play to their best – they just had a great day, whereas United had one of the worst in recent times. The only positive United can take from that is that it can’t get any worse from here. An absolute thumping to our arch rivals, at home, which could potentially decide the new home of the Premier League. The worst thing you can do now is to write off United – how many times have we been in this position in the past? A few bad performances, a lack of goals and a sinking position in the table…

Make no qualms about it – City are by far and away a force in Europe, and they will win trophies in the future, and will reignite football. Today felt very reminiscent of the Champions League final last season against Barcelona – a footballing masterclass. Everything that could have gone wrong did, and we felt the wrath of that. But heads high, brush ourselves down and take it on the chin. And let’s see where that takes us.

This probably comes across very biased, but I feel that actually, we deserved everything we got today. Nothing hurts more than a defeat to a rival, but such a big defeat doesn’t hurt. Two or three goals is embarrassing, four or five is humiliating, but six proves there’s something more to it; something deeper. Fergie has a lot of work to do with this team in order to place us back where we need to be. A faultless performance from City today, and a destructive one by United. I just hope that whatever these issues are are fixed quickly, easily, and out of the eye of the media.

Agree? Disagree?! Contact me on Twitter – I’m @Adam9309, or use the official site account – @bpfootball!

1 Response

  1. Jamie says:

    Hmm… how different would they have been with Sneijder, you ask? Well considering he’s not a central midfielder, I doubt he’d have changed very much at all. Plays in a sort-of-Rooney-when-he’s-with-Hernandez role, linking midfield and attack. He’s not the type of player United need and he’d have had no impact. It’s useless people lamenting United not signing him.

    What they really need is a deep-lying playmaker. They have a really strong squad, and given their and their manager’ character should finish top two and be looking for Champions League semis. But they have a real weakness defensively, for a number of reasons, but one must surely be the lack of defence and mettle in the first choice central midfield. They are a deep-lying playmaker away from being a top side.

    I still think, for now, Carrick and Giggs is their best balance in central midfield. But it’s good that they have more options than last season. Cleverley and Anderson, strangely an attacking-minded pairing just like yesterday, tore into City in the Community Shield. But something different was called for here, something I’m not sure United yet possess. (But it’s definitely not Sneijder)

    And after the Arsenal and Chelsea games, it’s quite odd that despite those ending in victories you could tell in both games that a defensive flop like this was on the cards. True, nobody expected City to win 6-1, but the warning signs were definitely there.

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