United Didn’t Want It Enough
4-1. It was worse than the 6-1 in 2010 at Old Trafford in 2011 for the familiarity of it all, worse than the 5-1 in 1989 for the insecurity and doubt that followed. Manchester United were drubbed, in every sense of the word Sunday at the Etihad Stadium, as Manchester City swept away the canvas that is England’s number one footballing city and doused it in blue.
First off, it’s important to note one or two things. Manchester City, on paper, have a better team than their cross-town rivals, and since Sheikh Mansour bought the club, City have a better record in the derby. It’s also important to note that Manchester United were without their talisman Robin Van Persie, a blow that was just as crushing physiologically as it was on the field.
But paper and tactics – which Pellegrini got right, and Moyes dreadfully wrong – only hold so much weight in the cliched, “throw out the records” derby match that was played on Sunday.
Rivalries are all about blood and thunder. Whichever side wants it more is usually in good shape in derbies. The now disposed of Sunderland manager Paulo Di Caino’s sheer intensity during the match against Newcastle last year will always endear him just a shred to the folks on Wearside, and Di Caino’s team played with their manager’s energy.
Manchester City were the better team in the first half. Sergio Aguero was sublime, Yaya Toure was an engine, and Vincent Kompany had the defense on lockdown.
So Man. United go into the dressing room, down 2-0. What does David Moyes say? Sir Alex must have taken the hair-dryer out of the United dressing room, because United came out for the second half so flat and so languid, they were down 4-0 inside the first five minutes of the second half.
According to a Daily Mail report, Ryan Giggs went ballistic on Michael Oliver in the tunnel at halftime – Giggs was looking to vent his considerable frustration. He gets it. Who in red on the pitch Sunday could you see doing that?
Wayne Rooney might have. And he was livid post-match. He could be, because he gave everything in the 90 minutes before. He always does. And for all his foibles, that’s why he’s beloved. His passion stood out. His teammates lack of passion stood out more.
Manchester City started the game jittery. That’s how it should be. You could see City’s pent up nerves and eagerness to show well. When skipper Kompany said after the game that City had been looking forward to the occausion, you knew it was an understatment.
United were flat, and they got flatter. Had City continued to press after they went 4-0 up with only 50 minutes on the clock, it would have been much uglier.
Moyes’ team didn’t play not to lose – they didn’t play for much of anything at all. That’s completely unacceptable. In the Premier League’s showcase game, a fixture between the two teams that have won the last three league titles, no less, United played with zero focus or intensity.
It’s time to recalibrate. Alex Ferguson is no longer in charge, and I’m afraid United are in a battle to make the top four. Their squad is weak and incomplete. Their manager is struggling, and Chelsea, City, Arsenal, Tottenham, and even Liverpool look stronger at the moment.
Sunderland sacked Di Caino on Sunday. While I most definitely don’t think Moyes – who needs time to learn – should be dispensed with, that’s how high the stakes are. If you watched the Red Devils Sunday, you would never know.
Last year, City were the collection of individuals, with no confidence in their boss. It showed. That’s what Man. United look like right now. It’s not a crisis at Old Trafford right now, but a little panic is needed.
The fixture list that Moyes railed against pre-season is now lightning up. And I have a feeling that Moyes was worried that early, difficult games going poorly would sap any confidence that people had in him going into the season.
That’s happened. Now United need to respond. That’s what Sir Alex was best at. United responded during games, and rallied for Fergie Time. They responded after big losses, and a relentless will to win was always the definition of the modern Manchester United.
Things change fast. Confidence is at an all-time low. United’s biggest crime at the Etihad wasn’t poor play, or poor tactics. They didn’t want it enough. And in football, you don’t get anything you don’t ask for.