Another damning indictment of the Moyes’ regime that gives City genuine hope of winning their second Premier League crown, here are five observations from the Manchester derby:
1) This was a reality check for Manchester United
There has been a genuine sense of optimism surrounding Old Trafford in the last week, but this latest emphatic loss to their noisy neighbours highlighted just how far United are from dining at the top table.
Following their 3-0 win against Olympiakos and 2-0 win away at West Ham, there were plenty of pundits and fans alike giving United more than half a chance of clinching a result against City on Tuesday night, but those tipping United to overcome Manuel Pellegrini’s men were swiftly brought back down to earth as City utterly dominated United on their own turf to make it six points from six against last year’s champions.
Quite why anyone thought United had a hope of winning on the basis of the performances against Olympiakos and West Ham remains to be seen. Olympiakos are an average side by European standards, whilst the Hammers are struggling to avoid relegation. If anyone had wanted a genuine performance with which to judge where United are currently at, their 3-0 loss at home to Liverpool is the more accurate barometer.
2) City have every chance of winning the title
I have made no secret of the fact that I think Chelsea are the team most likely to lift the Premier League title in May, but it goes without saying that City are in with more of a fighting chance.
Their victory at Old Trafford lifted them to just three points shy of the West Londoners with two games in hand, a vastly superior goal difference. If Pellegrini’s men can win at the Emirates on Saturday evening, they will be in pole position to lift their second Premier League crown. After the Gunners failed to overcome relegation candidates at Swansea at home on Tuesday, it certainly seems like Wenger’s men are there for the taking, and if City can start on Saturday as they did against United, they will be strong favourites to take all three points.
3) Moyes must take responsibility for the gulf in class
David Moyes has now presided over an aggregate score of 7-1 against United’s closest rivals and, to be frank, it simply isn’t good enough.
Whilst United did lose at home to City last season, the Red Devils put up a good fight, and, in fact, managed to defeat their rivals at the Etihad in the away fixture. United have continually underperformed against the big teams this season, and once again I feel duty bound to point out that the only major variable between last year and this year is the new manager and his coaching team.
United have only garnered ten points from (a possible 45) their games against the top ten this season: it goes without saying that this is a truly shocking statistic. Whatever Moyes is doing to prepare his team for big matches, it isn’t working.
I wrote after the Liverpool game that time must surely be up for the underfire United boss, and that it would be prudent for the United hierarchy to act quickly if they wanted to prevent this blip turning into a more long-term malaise.
This is not what has happened, and Sir Bobby Charlton’s show of support on Tuesday only served to indicate that Moyes would be keeping his job on a long-term basis. This result at home to City illustrates once again that Moyes is desperately out of depth, and no doubt United fans all over the globe are hoping that the United board comes to their senses before any more damage is done.
4) Moyes’ embarrassing formation issues of his own making
United looked better than they had done for some time against West Ham, with the chief reason being that Juan Mata was able to operate in his preferred position roaming in the space behind Wayne Rooney.
Rather than deploying the Spaniard in this position against City, Moyes made the decision to play Mata on the right, where he has proved ineffective time and time again.
To be fair to him, it seemed that Moyes recognised that fielding Mata as a winger was a mistake a mere ten minutes into the game, and it appeared that he was ready to introduce Antonio Valencia into the fray in place of Tom Cleverley, only to change his mind and instead deploy the limited midfielder on the right wing instead of Mata.
Cleverley is not a right winger, and was characteristically cautious in the way that he played, rarely getting past the halfway line and preferring a sideways or backwards ‘safety first’ pass as opposed to taking on his fullback Gael Clichy.
The Englishman cannot be blamed for this approach – after all, he is not a right-winger – but it once again highlighted Moyes’ tactical ineptitude. Cleverley was replaced at the break by Shinji Kagawa which perhaps indicated that Moyes had learnt from his mistake, but it must be asked: how did the Scot not envisage this issue before the start of the game when the rest of the footballing world did?
5) David Silva deserves more plaudits than he gets
When discussions about the best footballers in the world begin, familiar names are mentioned. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo generally get the top spots, with Luis Suarez, Franck Ribert and Andres Iniesta mentioned in dispatches.
One player who is rarely mentioned is David Silva, but once again at Old Trafford he demonstrated that he is a key player for Manchester City. His movement and close control are a joy to behold and the way that he creates space and chances for his teammates really is worthy of significant praise.
If City win the title, Silva will have been a key figure in that achievement, and perhaps he will then receive the plaudits he deserves.
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