5 Things We Learned: Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
1. Ashley Young is not United quality
I loathe to criticise United players while they still continue to wear the red shirt, but Ashley Young is simply not good enough to be given the opportunity to pull it on.
I was unfairly harsh on Darren Fletcher and Michael Carrick earlier in their Old Trafford careers, so in my older years I find myself giving players absolutely every opportunity to prove themselves at United.
With the England winger, however, it’s simply a case of him not being up to the standard required to be a United player.
Fletcher and Carrick have won over the critics and in the case of, say, Anderson, it’s accepted that he’s a supreme talent but he’s never quite lived up to his potential.
In Young’s case though, he simply isn’t good enough.
When we signed him, I thought he’d add quality to the squad. He’d just had a superb season at Aston Villa, with Sir Alex Ferguson claiming he’d been motivated to sign him because of his crossing ability and his potential to provide assists.
We’ve seen precious little of that, with the flimsy wideman instead usually preferring to cut back inside and perform a series of step overs before even attempting a cross.
Eye-catching performances from Young (two glorious goals in the 8-2 drubbing of Arsenal in August 2011 and another two stunners and a matchwinning performance in a 3-1 victory at White Hart Lane in March 2012) have been far too fleeting.
He is a prime example of a big fish in a small pond.
In the bubble of Villa Park, he was a star, but among a paddock of stars, he is far from a leading light and simply blends into the background.
He’s already had a few chances under Moyes this season, far more than say Shinji Kagawa, and the only thing he has proved is that he’s not up to the task.
In a game which cried out for big match experience, I honestly feel that Moyes would have been better off giving the raw, exciting talent of Wilfried Zaha or Adnan Januzaj a chance.
2. Moyes will not get away with using negative tactics at United
I’ve been very supportive of Moyes’ appointment. In over a decade of managing Everton he’s largely been seen as a success.
More and more Everton fans, however, have come out of the woodwork since his departure, bemoaning his style of play and penchant for substance over style.
Most Toffees seem more than pleased that Moyes’ efficient Everton is being overhauled by new manager Roberto Martinez and that he is shaping the team into his possession, crisp passing and fluid attacking mould.
The knives seem to be out from a lot of sections of the media and football experts too.
For example I think Moyes has received more scrutiny than either Manuel Pellegrini or Jose Mourinho.
Moyes took on the job many others would have refused and United fans know he needs time and patience.
But what we will not tolerate is negative tactics and the Scot has to be criticised for his all round handling of proceedings on Sunday.
I have a few friends who are Everton fans and they’re divided on Moyes. While they acknowledge he did a great job over his tenure, they have criticised his negative approach. Almost exclusively playing 4-5-1 and perhaps settling for a point or not going for the kill often enough in some games.
Moyes will have to realise he can’t get away with not taking a few risks at United.
We’re used to winning and being entertaining at the same time.
OK, so at 4-0 yesterday, he may not have wanted to risk another 6-1, but not making any substitutions at half time was ludicrous and then only bringing on Tom Cleverley and not throwing on at least one of Nani, Javier Hernandez or Shinji Kagawa at some point in the second 45 minutes smacked of cowardice and intimidation.
We were outclassed throughout 90 minutes and, with Yaya Toure making it 2-0 on the stroke of half time, we were already on the brink of the impossible.
But, as Wayne Rooney said in a post match interview, United have been 2-0 down before and, under Fergie, there is no doubt in my mind that we would have made some half time changes and chucked the kitchen sink at City in the second half, and at least tried to find a way back into the game.
Moyes may well have planned to see how the first five or 10 minutes of the second half panned out, and it wasn’t his fault that United’s defence managed to completely throw the game away within five minutes of the re-start.
Any attack minded changes after that would have perhaps been foolish, but to only introduce Cleverley in a bid to stifle City’s fluidity and accept damage limitation will not be a policy accepted very often by United fans.
3. A game where our lack of transfer activity looks like it could cost us
We got beat and we got beat good, and we got beat good without Robin van Persie.
The inevitable one man team tag has and will continue to be attached to us but yesterday’s humiliation was far more than solely down to the fact that we were without our Dutch destroyer.
Even with RVP in the side, he has been starved of supply at times this season, and I think we’re definitely lacking a spark in attack, a key to unlock the superior defences.
We struggled to even break down Crystal Palace at home a few weeks ago, with our two goals coming from set pieces.
With world class players like Vincent Kompany and Toure in imperious form, City were easily able to deal with our attacks. Perhaps we should have gone with three in midfield to combat the power of Toure and Fernandinho.
Antonio Valencia has made a welcome return to form so Moyes obviously had high hopes that he could cause problems yesterday, but rather than play two traditional wingers, we could have accommodated him in a front three, with Young clearly not up to the game’s or United’s standard.
Regarding United’s shambolic transfer policy over the summer, I’ve written several articles calling for calm.
I acknowledge that our sole signing of the summer was not nearly enough. Ferguson always seemed to strengthen his teams the most when we had just won the title.
Our transfer policy was very un-United, crossing the boundary of embarrassment, but I maintain that we have a competitive squad.
One that won the title at a canter last season and one that includes a core group of youngsters that are improving all the time.
On the flip side of that though is that we lack an attacking spark, that one player who can find the killer pass when in traffic, who can bypass the mire of midfield and penetrate a defence, and who can transform a decent passage of possession into a goalscoring chance.
4. Is the sun setting for the man from the land of the rising sun?
Of course, many United fans, including me, will argue that we already possess that special player.
It’s becoming a touchy subject for many United fans – what is the deal with Shinji Kagawa?
Fans of the Japanese playmaker are incredulous that he hasn’t been given many chances under Moyes so far this season, while other fans point to the fact that he’s played a lot for his country and missed a lot of pre-season so isn’t match ready.
But, with Van Persie ruled out of yesterday’s game with a slight thigh strain, the chance to play Kagawa could not have been more opportune.
The future of Kagawa has been a bone of contention among Reds’ supporters over the summer and I’ve read a few articles and been part of many arguments.
Those who are, for want of a better description, more interested in the team collective than one individual, seem to loathe the amount that Kagawa supporters want to see him given his chance.
I can’t help but feel that Kagawa was bought by Ferguson as a replacement for Rooney as opposed to being a teammate.
With Moyes deciding to spend the majority of the summer persuading the England frontman to stay, something I’m eternally grateful for, I wonder if that means that there simply isn’t room to accommodate the Japanese star.
Despite his ability to play out on the left, we certainly won’t see the best of him there, but with Van Persie and Rooney both in good goalscoring form and being our two star players, it’s difficult to imagine Moyes fitting the trio into the same side consistently.
When I heard prior to the game that Van Persie was out, I instantly thought of Kagawa playing in the hole behind Rooney.
I wasn’t altogether surprised that Moyes went with Welbeck and two wingers, especially considering the re-emergence of Valencia, but the result and the way City totally overawed us at least gave some indication that Moyes got it horribly wrong in not selecting Kagawa.
Kagawa seems to be in the same situation as Juan Mata at Chelsea.
Mourinho has decided that he wants Brazilian Oscar to be his number 10 and it seems there is no room for the Blues’ double player of the season.
Likewise, it seems it may be as simple as Moyes choosing Rooney over Kagawa.
5. Say it isn’t so
The ‘worst United team in decades’ line will no doubt be bandied about again in the wake of yesterday’s humiliation, but that is simply a lazy opinion.
I have and will never accept the ‘this is the worst United team in the Premier League era’ tag, but I have to concede that all of our worst fears about our misgivings came true yesterday.
Rio Ferdinand looked every one of his soon to be 35 years and he can no longer play three games a week. Defensive partner Nemanja Vidic is still only 31 but yesterday marked the first occasion the two had played three games in a week together since 2010.
The mauling we received at the Etihad portrayed Rio and Vidic, and indeed the whole of our defence, in their worst light imaginable.
While admittedly much improved, there are still niggling doubts about David de Gea, but it spoke volumes yesterday that he could not be faulted for any of the four goals.
Chris Smalling followed up a glowing performance in midweek against Bayer Leverkusen with another abject outing that suggests he’s out of his depth at the top of the Premier League.
He’s not first and foremost a fullback, but he seemed to possess no knowledge of basic defending against City, often losing the runs of Alexsandr Kolarov and unable to deal with the pace and trickery of Samir Nasri.
Patrice Evra is a fans favourite and rediscovered his form last season after 18 months of doubt following the death of his brother and the Luis Suarez saga, but yesterday his defensive fragility returned.
The fact that he is a superb threat going forward, is an excellent crosser and dribbler, and scored four goals last season gave way to the fact that he has lost the ability to do his basic job – defend.
He’s lost a few yards of pace and was brutally exposed yesterday by the rapid Jesus Navas, while he laboured getting back into position.
Carrick, once a figure of derision, has been the saving grace of an otherwise blunt looking United midfield for a few years now, but he was swept aside by a sea of blue attacking waves in the middle of the field yesterday.
Marouane Fellaini was bought to protect the defence and free Carrick from the burden of operating as United’s midfield anchor, but he looked out of his depth yesterday, with Toure and Fernandinho sailing past both of them with ease and stifling their attempts at building attacks.
Danny Welbeck has made much progress in the last few years but he was depressingly anonymous yesterday.
Despite being Ferguson’s man for the big occasion last season, most notably in the Bernabéu against Real Madrid, he looked every bit the tireless and talented yet ultimately toothless forward he is so often, unfairly labelled as, as he was barely allowed s sniff.
Bearing all of this in mind, it’s vital United fans acknowledge the gulf in class between the red and the blue half of Manchester yesterday.
It’s just as vital though that we don’t get too downhearted.
Wednesday provides an early opportunity to right the wrongs of the derby and the fact that it’s a cup game against a Liverpool side that will once again be able to include the talismanic Suarez should be viewed as a bonus for both United’s players and fans.
Sunday was a sobering defeat, but it’s a long season and we’re the reigning champions. We now need to react like champions.