Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6: Things We Learnt


By Nathan Thomas.

Yesterday was torture, there, I said it. I had the misfortune of being sat in the old scoreboard end on Sunday afternoon and was given a goal fest to feast upon, however much to my eternal horror the goals came from the team in blue. It is a game that will be discussed for years and just as the 5-1 from 1989 was disappearing into the past, this happens; it was without doubt the worst £32 I have ever spent!

Coming back to matters on the pitch results like this always provoke knee jerk reactions, from both sets of supporters; I’m sure some City fans will have been predicting a season laden in silverware this morning and I’m sure some pessimistic Reds will have been mourning the ‘crumbling of the empire’. However, as impressive as the result looked from a Blue perspective and as impressive as their football was at times it is important to take a step back and take a few things into account. The turning point in the game undoubtedly came at the start of the second half when Jonny Evans was dismissed after bringing down Mario Ballotelli as he raced through on goal. It was a hammer blow to United, already one down in goals they were now one down in bodies, it was always going to be an uphill battle however the old adage ‘never write off Manchester United’ sprang to mind shortly after Evans’ dismissal. This time there was to be no miracle comeback or last gasp finish at the Stretford End as we had the displeasure of watching our noisy-neighbours turn up the volume. Undoubtedly helped by the extra man advantage you do have to acknowledge City’s ruthlessness, Silva was excellent and even Ballotelli decided to keep his toys in the pram and notched a valuable brace. A Manchester City of four or five years ago may have nicked a second and then sat back and held what they had, not any more, they took swift action and put the Reds thoroughly to the sword, they deserve credit and any lingering doubts about City’s title credentials have been emphatically answered.

All this Man City appraisal is making me feel a bit funny, so let me pop my Red tinted specs back on and look at the game from a Man United point of view. The result, was horrible, no doubt, however although I woke up on Monday morning feeling awful; in the general scheme of things I am not overly worried, in the first half United had the lion’s share of possession albeit Ferguson will have been disappointed with the Reds inability to get in behind the back four and really penetrate into the final third. United had a lot of the ball up until the edge of the area but couldn’t puncture a resilient City defence, on the positive Ashley Young seemed to have the better of Micah Richards whom should have been booked well before his late second half yellow after a number of cynical fouls in the first half. United may have reduced to pot shots from outside the box but so were City, their attacks were sporadic, although they did carry potency. Mario Ballotelli’s goal was there only real chance of the first half, credit therefore must go for their clinical nature in front of goal, but overall United shaded the first half and were unlucky to go behind when they did. Subsequently I am convinced that United would not have lost Sunday’s game had they had a full quota of players for the entirety of the second half. You only have to look at how the Reds started the second half even with ten men, they dominated City for a ten minute spell after the break and looked like they might even snatch one, as it was City expertly utilised the extra space in the United side and took full advantage.

Another reason to cite the lack of bodies as the key factor is that for large periods of the second half ten-man United gave as good as they got, the possession was 49%-51% and the territory gained was a similarly even 48%-52%, not dominant statistics. The fact that when Darren Fletcher made it 1-3 with a spectacular goal with nine minutes to go sparked optimistic hopes of the comeback of comebacks showed how well United had dug in despite the sending off. In truth Fletcher’s goal was arguably the worst thing that could have happened to the Reds, a 3-0 scoreline would have been tough to take but with ten-men it would not have caused shockwaves through football like 6-1 did. When Fletcher scored it gave a new found impetus to United’s players, sniffing an unlikely reprisal pushed forward with careless abundance, thus leaving huge gaps at the back for City to exploit. Once City scored their fourth United should really have just took the result and ensured that they did not concede any more, however United players are taught from the earliest stages of their careers to go for the win, never settle for anything else and unfortunately this mentality, along with a worrying defensive lapse in concentration cost United big.

The fact that with five minutes of normal time remaining the score was only 3-1 shows that it was in the remaining few minutes that the Reds imploded, I think it is here where the real grievance lies. 3-1 would have been tough but understandable, 6-1 just shouldn’t have happened, Ferguson will have hammered home that Reds need to concentrate until the Fat Lady spews her guts out, as it was United just seemed to stop after the fourth goal. Laziness crept in, typified by Ferdinand’s late back pass which went out for a corner, in the end United could count themselves lucky it was only six as in the dying embers City romped forward in manner of which the last time I saw something like it I was twelve years old and playing on the park and my team were winning 16-11, it was too easy for City in the end and that was the most disappointing aspect of it. Admittedly the United players are only human and after exerting a mammoth effort in the second half, then to be handed a sniff of a comeback only to have it snatched away would have destroyed most teams.

Furthermore not many fans have the right to critics United for seemingly throwing in the towel as an abysmal amount of fans streamed out of Old Trafford early, the Red mist really did descend then although credit must go to the large portion of Reds who stayed and sang until the end. Coming back to the players though, they are human yes, but their professionalism should have conquered that and ensured that despite the scoreline United maintained a reasonable solidity and kept the score reasonably respectable (considering the circumstances).

Sunday was bad result no doubt however as Ferguson has hammered home in almost every year of his twenty six year reign at Old Trafford the important thing is how United respond, this for me is the only worry, can United overcome a 6-1 sized blow before a tough fixture at Goodison Park next Saturday. This in my opinion is the only question mark, as for the table, being five points behind the leaders in mid October is no bad position at all and as we know all throughout United’s history great things have emerged from the ashes of adversity and I see no reason why there won’t be a repeat.

Thanks to Nick Coppack of for the stats.
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  1. If we didn’t already know it, I think Sundays game proved, without a doubt, that Manchester City are better than Utd.

    They have the money. They have the council in their pocket. They have 2 better players in every position (with the possible exception of Rooney and Young). Their fans followed them down to the 3rd tier and back up. I bet the Utd store in Beijing is empty today. Etihad has those vital slots at Manchester airport.

    United’s biggest advantage is the experience of Alex Ferguson. He looked very old yesterday.

    • Interesting assesment Zorrin, however I am not sure whether I would agree with you. United were much better than City in the Community Shield earlier in the season and matched if not bettered them for the majority of the first half on Sunday. City are now a class ‘team’ without a doubt, they have gone from a group of talented individuals to a talented team capable of challenging for the biggest honours. However I would think twice before writing off United, although City have some belting players, Silva in particular who is probably the best player in the league right now I am not sure they have two better players in every position. Out of the City team I would have Silva, Aguero, Kompany and possibly Yaya Toure at United. As for the rest although good players they are no better than what United have, the likes of Barry, Milner, Lescott, Clichy would definitely not get into the United side. That’s not to say they are not good players but I believe United have better players in their positions. You mentioned Rooney and Young, what about Nani, Hernandez, Vidic, Evra (on his day), Valencia? City were brilliant second half yesterday and deserve all the plaudits they will undoubtedly get however before making your assertion I think you’d best watch the two teams with eleven men for ninety minutes. This season is a marathon not a sprint after all.

  2. Erik, City fan in the States on

    Fair appraisal of the match. I am not counting trophies yet, as the season is still a long way to go. I know things can go wrong so I will just enjoy each City win as they come. I was suprised by how quiet Old Trafford was on TV. It sounded like a tomb way too often. I heard very little singing in the second half except when City fans were singing. More so as the game went on. I figured you would be signing your hearts out trying to urge your boys on but for the most part, there was none of it. I don’t think I have ever witnessed a United home match where the crowd was quieter. As far as what was displayed on the field, I was surprised at the lack of the usual precise counter attacks that United have been known for. When that wasn’t used (available?) even the wing play wasn’t that dominant. Nani was nearly non-existant and though Young had the measure of Richards and then some on occasion, it wasn’t a dominant display in any sense. Micah probably could have been booked early int he match, but Evra was also lucky he wasn’t sent off, of which he deserved to be. It was a wonderful Sunday morning to be a City fan! Cheers!

    • Thank you Erik, I couldn’t agree with you more about the atmosphere at Old Trafford. Other than the first ten minutes it was very quiet. I was disgusted to see the amount of fans leaving their seats early, when you actually think of how ungrateful and ignorant that is it makes you laugh. City as Zorrin (above) said have been at the very pits of English football within very recent memory and credit must go to the fans who have stuck by them through thick and largely thin. The United fans who left early on Saturday should hang their heads in shame, the amount of success we have enjoyed over the past twenty years, along with what was until recently Ferguson’s best start to a season should have ensured they stayed but no. Yes it was a humiliating, horrible, bemusing defeat but still it is no excuse and it is nothing to what City have suffered.
      I found it interesting how the fans who actually stayed made more noise collectively than when the stadium was full singing ‘we love United’, perhaps this was a reall assesment of the true United fans, and the plastic ones.

  3. Im a blue and not come on here to gloat,depending what ever club from manchester you support you will be looking at the game through red or blue tinted glasses.Without trying to show any bias i have no doubt even with 11 men on both sides city would of won the game 2 maybe 3-0,if i was a red at the moment i would be very worried i genuinely mean that,very very worried.Not about whats happening at city,but more about the weakness of your current squad,in the last 2 years genuine world class players like Ronaldo,Tevez,Scholes Neville VDS have gone,Giggs Ferdinand Evra have peaked and on the slide fast.The players brought in to replace these such as Welbeck,Cleverly,Young,Smalling,De gae,Jones are nothing more than decent players that will never get you back to that level.An earlier poster said out of all citys squad theres only 4 players hed have,take off those red glasses pal because unless fergies given some serious money and can bring in some quality players that you have been used to,then united could very quickly become the new Liverpool.

  4. Your view at times is well reasoned but I would say that, as the away team, you need to earn the right to play football. City closed you down and worked you out in the first 20 minutes without you ever threatening to score. Once we scored, the confidence grew and there was only going to be one winner. By the time that Evans got sent off, City had quelled the attacks and started to exert control. United’s only touch of the second half was a header before the sending off! Had Evans not fouled Balotelli he would certainly have scored. That would be 2-0 and you were already being systematically taken apart. It reminded me of a small ball with his first capture of a daddy-long-legs. It is painful sometimes but you have to just hold your hands up. Dzeko should have scored two more, Richards first half chip could have caught De Gea out and we were more dynamic, workmanlike, professional and incisive throughout. City controlled the game from 20 minutes onwards and there is no argument against that. United are undoubtably a good team but their wingers were nullified, their strikers left to defend and their midfield outclassed and lacking invention. The defence were exposed as better than average but lacking command and the keeper made a save. You will be challenging in May and may win it but I have never seen a United team that offers the opposition so many chances to score. Ferguson knows the game inside out and is a truly great man motivator but your players have overachieved for a season too many. Time to face the truth me thinks

  5. Fully disagree that there will be many twists and turns before end of the season but the extent of your blame for the loss on the sending off seems to be clutching at straws. Sendings off happen regularly but they don’t always end up in 6-1 defeats, esp when it’s only 40 mins with 10 men and at home.
    As for possession clearly it’s not how much you have but what you do with it. City often dominated possession last year but were nevertheless a shadow of the destructive force they are now

  6. The above three comments certainly carry a lot of credence and I can certainly see where you are coming from. However I believe that some statements typify the ‘knee jerk’ reaction category. Statements such as ‘City dominanted the game as of twenty minutes’ I could not disagree with that more, I wouldn’t even say City dominated when United were down to ten. This is not say they wouldn’t have done if they had really wanted to but they cranked the pressure just at the right moments without dominating over a sustained period. I would agree that United have looked frail at the back this season and that certainly needs to be adressed however I am not overly worried as apparently I should be. Before the City game this had been United’s best start to a season under Ferguson’s reign, although they had tailed off a little in recent games some of the football at the start of the season was scintillating, not bad for a couple of ‘decent’ replacements for the likes of Ronaldo, Tevez and Scholes.

    City certainly are on it at the moment and regardless of how many men the opposition have they are a top quality team and showed it on Sunday. However in the first half there was little to chose between the two sides, they certainly did not dominate United’s midfield although I would agree that United lacked invention.

    Upon reflection it is a strong possibility that City would have won regardless of the sending off with one comment correctly stating that had Evans not fouled Ballotelli chances are he would have scored anyway however. It would have been an uphill battle for United yes, but nothing of the sort that they encountered with ten men.

    After the game City certainly have a lot to be hopeful for however I think some of the reaction towards the United team has been slightly, over-hyped in what was unquestionably a freak-result.

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