Moyes was tactically outclassed
Even the most casual of football observers would have to question the wisdom of going to the Etihad and deploying only two players in the centre of midfield, and yet David Moyes opted for a midfield partnership of Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini in the biggest game of his United tenure so far. The Scot was perhaps hoping that Wayne Rooney would drop back to help out his two midfielders, but given Rooney’s barnstorming return to form in an advanced role against Bayer Leverkusen, the Englishman can’t really be blamed for not operating in a midfield role.
As it was, United were overran by City, with the Citizens making the most of a severe lack of pace in the United side. Manuel Pellegrini set up his side well, allowing them to ruthlessly exert their clear superiority over their famous neighbours.
Marouane Fellaini does not solve United’s problems
Fellaini had a great game against Bayer Leverkusen, but this may have given fans and pundits alike an unrealistic expectation of the Belgian. When pitted against a player like Yaya Toure, Fellaini came up short. Of course, it is early days for the towering midfielder, and he has every chance of improving, but the 25-year old did not have his best outing in the derby.
From a United perspective, what was perhaps most worrying about his performance was his lack of pace. Outstripped a number of times by his opposite numbers, he looked ponderous on the ball, and did not seem to have the ability to stride forward with the ball. This may all change, but as it stands it doesn’t appear that £27 million for the 6 ft 4 midfielder is a particularly sound investment.
Vincent Kompany is the best defender in the league
Yaya Toure ended up winning man of the match, but one would have to say that this assessment was harsh on the Man City captain, who was absolutely phenomenal throughout the game.
Kompany was everywhere, and his defensive ability – coupled with his aptitude at running with the ball and his not insignificant pace – means that there are few defenders in Europe who can touch the Belgian when he is on song. If Man City can keep him fit, the Citizens have every chance of winning the league this season.
Man United need Robin van Persie
Perhaps a rather obvious point, but the champions look like a different side without the Dutchman. Without van Persie’s ability to pick out runs and bring the wide men into play, the Red Devils look one-paced and out of ideas.
What is intriguing and baffling in equal measure is what happens when van Persie is not available. Why Moyes prefers the workmanlike attributes of Danny Welbeck over the finishing ability and spark of the Mexican Javier Hernandez remains to be seen; but while the Englishman plays instead of Chicharito, United are never going to look anything other than the average side that they looked on Sunday. Moyes appears to be following in Ferguson’s steps with the deployment of Welbeck, but the Scot must soon realise that he needs to shape this team in his own image.
You could almost sense Rooney’s frustration at having to play with the rather limited Welbeck, and if Moyes wants to get the best out of his team, he’ll have his fingers crossed that van Persie doesn’t pick up too many more injuries this season.
Moyes needs to be bold; especially on the flanks
Another 90 minutes, another poor game from Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia. To be fair to the latter, Valencia excelled against Leverkusen, but aside from that performance, the Ecuadorian has been poor for some time. Similarly, after a good start to his Old Trafford career, Young’s effectiveness has waned considerably.
What is perplexing is that it’s not as if Moyes needs to play these players. Not only does he have the inconsistent but nonetheless brilliant talents of Luis Nani to call upon, but he also has two young bucks in Wilfried Zaha and Adnan Januzaj in his squad. Both Zaha and Januzaj have looked pacy, dangerous and exciting in their outings so far, but it doesn’t appear that Moyes trusts either player enough to give them a more prominent role.
Whilst he continues to play Young and Valencia, United will more than likely continue to put in the same kind of laboured performance that yielded a 4-1 defeat at the hands of their rivals. When you compare the wing play of City – with Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri causing problems whenever they got on the ball – with United’s, the comparison is almost laughable. If Moyes wants to be a success, he must be bold, he must depart from his predecessor, and he must drop either Young or Valencia. Preferably both.
City’s squad is the best in the league
One of the most obvious comparisons between the two Manchester sides was the strength in depth (or lack of it) displayed on both their benches. City were able to call upon the services of Edin Dzeko, Javi Garcia and James Milner to aid them in their victory, whilst Moyes made one solitary substitution: taking off Young for the highly average Tom Cleverley.
When you consider City’s strength in depth in every position, they have without question the strongest squad in the league, and if United, Chelsea or Arsenal sustain injuries – as they are almost certain to – it may be rather easy for City to wrest the title from their neighbour’s grasp.