5 Things We Learned: Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City

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Manchester United’s first defeat of the season came at the hands of their bitter City rivals. Completely outclassed in the first half, many were wondering how many it might be, but the Reds rallied and in the end fought well until the final whistle.

A sloppy and stagnant start left Manchester City cruising 2 goals to the good thanks to Kevin De Bruyne and Kelechi Iheanacho. Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s beautifully taken strike brought hope before half time but in the end Mourinho’s men just didn’t have enough to truly trouble a resolute Manchester City.

For all of the Blues’ good play, a route one goal and a deflection that fell kindly bring a tinge of disappointment. Nevertheless, the Etihad outfit were well worth the 3 points; here are 5 things we learned from a difficult afternoon against Pep Guardiola’s side.

1) Slow Start

For the first 15 minutes the home side struggled to get near the Noisy Neighbours. Encouraging counter-attacks were wasted with sloppy play prevalent throughout the side. By the time the Reds had found their feet in the game it was already too late; a 2 goal deficit against a City outfit who keep the ball for fun was always likely to be too much of an ask.

Tactically the side were muddled, and Jose Mourinho will have to shoulder some of the blame. The manager couldn’t legislate for a number of poor individual performances, but United looked anything but drilled or clear as to whether to press or whether to sit back and stay compact. In isolation it was a bad day at the office, but with many more big games to come it’s something the manager will need to address.

2) Struggling Stars

It was certainly an afternoon to forget for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Jesse Lingard. Both looked off the pace and lacking match sharpness and it was a strange decision in that respect from the manager to start the pair.

The theory was sound; 2 pacy players, suited to counter attacking football and comfortable sitting inside defensively to pack the midfield. Unfortunately, both players were off the pace and out of the game.

Mkhitaryan in particular seems to be struggling to settle and the form of Anthony Martial is also a concern having been forced to start from the substitutes bench. The quality is certainly there, but if the Reds are to seriously challenge this season they will need their stars to find form quickly.

3) The Pogba Problem

Paul Pogba is a fantastic footballer, but he is an enigma on the pitch, a spirit that needs freedom to flourish. In the first half an hour against City the painfully immobile Marouane Fellaini was left hopelessly exposed in the midfield and United paid the price.

There is no question that Pogba is more suited to a 4-3-3, with licence to roam all over the pitch from box to box. Many are calling for Wayne Rooney to make way and Mourinho may have a big decision to make before too long. It’s pointless spending big money on top quality if they are not allowed to play their natural game.

The likes of Pogba, Martial and Rashford are the future of the club and Mourinho needs to start building a side around them.

4) Patience, Patience, Patience

Saturday’s clash called for patience, particularly in the second half, and the rest of the campaign calls for patience too.

After a strong opening quarter of an hour after the break, where the Reds moved the ball quickly and with purpose, pressing high and forcing Claudio Bravo to kick long, tactics reverted to route one football. It was the kind of football that previous managers would have been slaughtered for and the sort of thing City likely spent the week preparing for in training.

The Reds needed greater variety and more confidence in their ability to continue to patiently work the ball. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that this is still very early days for this side. New players and a new manager will always take time to fully settle and patience should be forthcoming. This is a manager who is a proven winner and in time he will get it right.

5) Title Contenders?

It was the first real test of United’s title credentials and one that certainly brought perspective. In truth Mourinho’s men looked second best and the early promise of 3 straight wins has now been brought into context.

Of course, the Reds will improve and surely the best is yet to come, but Saturday perhaps showed why expectations should be tempered. Manchester United will be title contenders this season, they have enough quality to see off lesser opposition comfortably, but they are certainly not favourites for the Championship.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    City looked great in the 1st half, United were awful, but red cards change games; a penalty and 2-2 against 10 men should have seen us win! Even with 11 men on the pitch, City’s defence where there for the taking if we had only played 4-3-3 from the outset and properly tested them in the air.

    Route One football might not be easy on the eye but when played properly it can be highly effective and there are some games where, if you have that option available, it can make the difference between collecting 0, 1 or 3 points. As City brought on Fernandinho and Zabaleta it seems more likely that an a sustained aerial bombardment would have paid more dividends than having “patience.”

    Bravo looks like a typical continental flapper and you would have thought that, with us having several players well over 6′ tall, we could have at least put them under more pressure than we did.

    Lets be honest though, we lost the game before a ball was kicked! As good as City were, Jose gave them a huge advantage, playing tired, injured, unfit, inexperienced and out of form players in the wrong formation.

    It would be wrong to single out individuals who had a one off bad game the way Mourinho did, but Rooney was rotten, yet again, against City. How long is he going to hold back other, better performing players from having the chance to make a more positive impact and contribution to the team?A fit Welbeck and Hernandez would both have been better options than Rooney, they both left because he was blocking their paths. How long will Rashford and Martial have to wait? At some point Jose has got to have the nuts to bench him and give these youngsters an extended run.

    Elsewhere, our midfield options are good, but their limitations show against top opposition, especially if playing 4-2-3-1 when 4-3-3 is needed.

    Ok, the timing of the game early in the season after the international break was unfortunate but thats just tough, City were fitter, better prepared, and, apart from Bravo, superior in every department.

    Pep’s innovative 3-2-2-3 (WM) formation gave City multiple passing options everywhere on the pitch and the ability to overload bewildered, often static opponents stuck in rigid formations; their aggressive high pressing, short, sharp passing, switching of play and fast counter attacks left United chasing shadows.

    But for Fellaini we could have been thrashed at home, but he is limited and can’t do everything alone. Putting him alongside the attack oriented Pogba against City with no support was naive.

    Pogba looked shattered by the end; he is young and athletic but those Euro games, a short pre season and the physical demands of the Premiership really showed on Saturday. You get the best out of him by playing 4-3-3; with a holding DM and a linking player, someone like Kante, who can both overturn possession and run directly at the opposition.

    We saw the difference Herrera’s drive, energy, aggression and creativity made, but he is easily knocked off the ball and can’t dominate.

    Schneiderlin is tougher, he can intercept, tackle, break up play and no is slouch, but he’s no Kante or Toure and can be anonymous.

    Fosu Mensah is still very young and inexperienced but he has height, power, athleticism, speed, stamina, skill, temperament and intelligence….all the attributes required to become the complete box to box player in the Yaya Toure mould.

    With the summer transfer window closed and only the usual slim pickings available in January, Jose could do a lot worse than to progress Tim’s development into a first team player more rapidly rather than he might otherwise think prudent. The Europa League and Milk Cup games provide the perfect opportunity to use him in that kind of role, I really hope Jose gives him a chance there but I think he will give it to Carrick and Schneiderlin and use Tim at RB.

    I really cant see us winning the title this season and it seems obvious that every other club will strugge to keep pace with City tbh.

    United have made massive changes in the playing and coaching staff, yet again and had a very poor pre season preparation; they look to me as if they might struggle to turn the potential they obviously have in their squad into consistent results and progress in so many demanding competitions.

    Giving Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and Liverpool a run for their money whilst qualifying for the ECL and winning another cup (or even two) with no long term injuries and the youngsters gaining experience would be a really great season for us imho and give Jose the chance to further enhance the overall quality of the squad whilst clearing out the likes of Darmian, Schweinsteiger and Rojo. Bailly does look a great long term bet, and I’d absolutely love to see Boateng play alongside him, but Bayern have him under raps until 2021 now. Thats the type and quality of player we need to attract but they are so difficult to get.

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