5 Things We Learned: Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United


By Matthew Jones

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.


Subscribe via Email

Subscribe to our free email newsletter and never miss a post!

I agree to have my personal information transfered to MailChimp ( more information )

I will never give away, trade or sell your email address. You can unsubscribe at any time.


  1. 4-3-3/4-5-1, especially with no van Perise, would have been the better option in hindsight. Yes, Young was shockingly bad and deserves criticism for his performance, but why is he being singled out by most United fans? The game was lost in midfield and the defence was very poor. We didn’t lose the game or perform so badly because of Young. Prior to kick off I thought Carrick and Fellaini would cope with Toure et al, but that clearly wasn’t the case. Fellaini was poor and he struggled to impose himself and offered little presence. Yesterday was hopefully a learning experience for him and he now has a better idea of what is required. Our best football came when Cleverley was introduced and we switched to a three man midfield. I don’t see Cleverley’s introduction as a negative tactic if our team performance improved.

    I like Kagawa and I think he can & will become a top player for us, but as of yet he’s done little to suggest he should be an automatic starter and has done little to justify the fan adulation. I would argue Young had a better first season at United than Kagawa. Kagawa, Nani or Chicharito were not ready start, but I was surprised none were introduced at some point.

    Smalling was okay-ish yesterday bar his crossing.

    “Another abject outing that suggests he’s out of his depth at the top of the Premier League.”

    Very harsh, Matthew.

    We’ve had a tough start, but we could quite possibly earn 12-15 points from the next five games and things will look differently. We’ve just lost the greatest manager of all time so a smooth transition was unlikely. People need to remain calm.

    • Ashley Young is perhaps wrongly singled out but he is seriously over-rated and offers very little apart from the persistent and embarrassing dives with legs all over the place. I’d like to add one more to the things we learned”.. Rio is finished.

  2. I am a blue and read this out of curiosity to see how the other half saw the derby. I feel congratulations are in order for a very well written and argued piece of writing, which I enjoyed reading. Yesterday was one of those games when just about everything went right for us blues and wrong for the reds. Scoring goals either side of the half time break can have a devestating effect on the opposition and was something United were particularly good at in the past. Truth is up until the derby none of the two teams had played particularly well so there was apprehension in both set of fans as to the outcome. Luckily for me City came good. No trophies are handed out in September though. It looks like it will be a very interesting season with more competition than in recent years,

  3. Sorry boys but your old men were thoroughly stuffed yesterday. City took the foot off your throats after the fourth goal and just played out the last 20 minutes. Probably just as well, De Gea was getting more exercise pulling the ball out of the back of the net than your decrepit defence trying to defend against an avalanche. The score could well have been 8+ if we’d have bagged all our chances, but hey…

    Why Gollum didn’t put the Japanese lad on I have no idea. The idea when you’re being well and truly battered (again) and only sending 1 sub on beggars belief!

    Expect a few more of the same as most managers finally figure out that Taggart’s not there anymore (REALLY?). 😉

  4. You r delusional young is crap he has done nothing to merit a starting position plus the point were u said he had a good first season did u mean at aston villa n smalling is a crap defender in cb or rb he is shit wen I saw d line up young welbeck smalling I knew we wud lose well y offer nani a 5yr deal if he won’t play him y nt free shinji he is the best am in our team n I heard u say he done nothing to merit a start well lst season he played fewer games than young bt scored and assisted more so young is nt just united quality he won’t even make swansea spurs everton bench he is absolute crap n tlk abt welbeck he played 42 games no assist n 2 goals dats crap dey shud be sold to championships side xcept moyes is playing them becos they r english players dat is the only reason dey r on the pitch

  5. I still struggle with the summers lack of activity. I don ‘t care that we only bought Fellani. I care that more deadweight wasn’t sold. SAF has held on to too many marginal players for too long. Many of us would have appreciated selling Ando, Nani, Young, Webeck and the “never plays” mancheda and Bebe while providing Ferdinand, Giggs and Fletcher graceful exits… Their time given to Lindegard, Adnan, Zaha, Powell and Kagawa.

    If we would have lost 4-1 to city with an XI of (DDG, Fabio, Smalling Vidic, evra – Carrick Powell- Adnan Kagawa Zaha – Rooney), we would be discussing and supporting “Moyes Boys” and cheering his trust in bleeding youth for the future.

    The problem isn’t who didn’t come in, it is who wasn’t shipped out

  6. A very balanced and refreshing (not to mention surprising) viewpoint from Pavlos. There’s eight months to go until the end of the season and City, despite absolutely dominating, did only get three points for the win. Again, I reiterate that City were truly dominant, but every shot they hit seemed to result in a goal, whereas if Rooney’s skied effort at 4-0 down had gone in, you never know, it might have sparked something.

    On the other hand to Pavlos is a typically smug response from the blue half, Stevie. I’d enjoy Sunday as much as you, but take your shots at us while you can. Time will tell whether the new look City will be able to maintain their momentum. As Pavlos said, you’ve hardly lit the league alight prior to Sunday.

    Sideshow, agreed I’ve been harsh on Smalling, but I feel I have to be as harsh as I can following such a shattering defeat. He is a talented lad and has time on his side, but after such a glowing display against Leverkusen in midweek, I was upset and surprised he seemed to overawed against City. I must point out that the defence as a whole was a shambles and while Smalling could be criticised for not having enough big game experience, his other three defensive colleagues have a wealth of big match experience, and they were just as awful. I also dislike him continually being given his chances at right back. We won’t see the best of him there but it’s up to him, Jones and Evans to step up and force Moyes into making him replace the Rio/Vidic mould.

    I also agree that Cleverley’s introduction saw us play our best football, I didn’t think it was a bad decision, I was merely pointing out that it was not as attacking a ploy as introducing either Kagawa/Hernandez/Nani. While we did play our best football with Cleverley on the pitch though, it was 4-0 by then and City were not pressing as hard.

    As for Junior, I’m struggling to both tell whether you’re a United fan at all and understand your illiterate and child-like post. Read a dictionary and perhaps pay attention at school. As for your criticism, you should be ashamed. My criticism of players, ie Smalling, is intended to be constructive, while I simply feel Young has had his chances at United and is not up to our high standards. I’m just glad most other United fans are not as delusional and fickle as you.

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.