Man City 4-1 Man United: new (United) manager, same midfield problem

Manchester United are humbled 4-1 away at Manchester City

Author: Doron

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United’s tricky start to the season continued with a short trip to rivals Manchester City. There was a blow before kick off with the confirmation that van Persie had a minor groin injury and so he was replaced by the fit again Welbeck and Young came in for Kagawa. City made one change from their midweek win as Negredo replaced Dzeko. We welcome comments from both sets of supporters.

Moyes matches Fergie with his tactics

It wasn’t uncommon for fans to be berating Ferguson after games at Anfield, the Etihad or the Emirates – whether because he liked the 4-4-2 system or because of a lack of central midfield options, he seldom picked three in the middle.

With the signing of Fellaini, heading into this game there was the possibility of United actually matching up to City. Carrick to sit deep and orchestrate play, Fellaini to be a presence and win the ball, and Cleverley to link play and in general provide a buzz of energy. City don’t specifically play three in the middle but Nasri plays narrow and Aguero likes to drop deep whilst Yaya Toure can at times play for two.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but United had to go into the game with caution – to ensure the game was kept tight before eventually being able to take some risks to try to win it. It would be doing City too much disservice to try to go and play attacking football there and it just seldom happens in football.

Ultimately Moyes went with a 4-4-2 and it was a shambles. Fellaini, who was arguably the most disappointing United player, didn’t know whether to push onto players or sit deep. He let men constantly run off him and he was given the run around by Man City’s midfield. United were unable to control proceedings and when in possession neither central midfielder was able to push on for fear of leaving space in behind. Only when Cleverley came on for Young and United did go to a 4-3-3/4-5-1 type system was there any element of assertiveness but by then City were cruising at 4-0 and able to relax. For what it’s worth when Cleverley came on he was good and the formation that finished the game really should have been the one that started it.

Moyes himself acknowledged that United were outplayed in the middle after the match: “We never got to grips with their midfield and it gave them the domination” – someone should have asked why this couldn’t have been seen in advance and a genuine three man midfield selection with Welbeck coming in off the left, Valencia from the right and Rooney through the middle. Mind you, Fergie would have watched on with a sense of familiarity to it all.

Defensive errors

Fans will be quick to point out that for an hour United created nothing. The loss of van Persie to a minor groin strain was frustrating but the difference he’d have made wasn’t necessarily easy to predict for the forward players had no service. Kagawa and Nani may have been able to offer something different going forwards but the scoreline more than anything reflects some shambolic defending from a variety of guilty parties. City were able to tear United apart way too easily only aided by uncharacteristic and sloppy mistakes by individuals and the group.

Errors varied from giving the ball away to poor marking to players to complete defensive unit mistakes. In truth, United’s start to the season from a defensive point of view has been a tad unconvincing. Vidic has at times looked imperious but the changes at right back have been a disruption and the run of games for Ferdinand may be taking its toll. Three games in a week for Ferdinand-Vidic doesn’t seem sensible when both, but Ferdinand in particular need managing. It’s easy to understand that Moyes wants to trust experience but he also needs to have faith in the other central defenders to step in to allow others to rest.

Rooney’s fight

If we were to do player ratings, only one of the eleven who started would get an average or possibly above average mark. Rooney may have wanted or may still want to leave the club but he was the one player who played at an acceptable level.

His late goal was no less than he deserved and in truth United deserved. He’d been busy and got stuck in from early on. Howard Webb had one of those games where it became difficult to prove conspiracy theorists correct as he gave a series of soft and contentious fouls against Rooney before eventually booking him. That Rooney was involved in those situations though was good to see, there is some fight left in him still. The eventual change in system suited him too – suddenly he found pockets of space and started to influence our play more. His recent form is something to cling onto, if others can match his levels and intensity, better days are ahead of us.

Superb City

For all our flaws and errors, City were fantastic. Like Moyes, there has been a focus on Pellegrini particularly after a couple of uninspiring early season displays but he and his team delivered. Their most important players were right on top of their form – Kompany a rock at the back; Yaya Toure for an hour was unplayable; and Aguero clinical, his first goal was nothing short of genius.

The use of natural width and pace in Navas is already showing its value and at long last Nasri seems to have found a place in the side that suits not just him but those around him. Negredo’s work rate and Zabaleta’s consistency are both areas that should please City fans. The intensity of their play and speed of it was overwhelming for United – maybe it was the adrenaline of the derby but if they can match that for spells in games over the season they may successfully go under the radar as attention continues to be focussed on Moyes and Mourinho.


It’s been a dark Sunday with United silenced on the pitch if not off it. City scored goals at crucial times and were good value for their emphatic 4-1 win. Aguero’s opener will rightly be considered for goal of the month but fingers can be pointed at Valencia’s inability to track Kolarov who supplied the cross. The second goal was a victory for poor marking as were numbers three and four soon after half time.

As goal four went in, United changed the system and for the last 40 minutes played better football but by this point City had it won and were able to coast the remainder of the game. Rooney’s late free kick was excellent and at least meant that the noisy away fans could cheer something.

Moyes understandably has stuck with experience in the opening games but he needs to start to trust his squad and rotate a bit more. Importantly he must work out just where Fellaini is going to be most effective and a three man midfield will at times need to be used now we have the players to be able to play it. He’ll get plenty of criticism, some of it fair, some of it over the top but anyone calling for his head already needs seriously questioning. He and the players have my full support and they should have yours too.

It’s Liverpool in the Capital One Cup midweek which should give a chance for some of the squad players to prove they should be starting league games. The likes of Evans, Fabio, Kagawa, Cleverley, Nani, Zaha and Hernandez all need minutes now and hopefully they’ll be able to provide entertainment as well as a win. In terms of the league, we now embark on a run of very winnable games so the five point gap to the top will hopefully only be reduced.

16 Comments on Man City 4-1 Man United: new (United) manager, same midfield problem

  1. While “clinging onto Rooney’s form” you will have more time to cheer his name now that hailing Fellaini’s arrival has come to an end. The only player commited to the cause was Rooney. Amazing consering his desire to leave, it was the rest of the team that deserve the silent treatment.

  2. Great synopsis, which also raises the question: do we need to get a midfielder and if so what type? Or do we just try to find a system that works?

  3. Moyes hasn’t got the bottle to put our skilful players on the pitch and in a important game go for the victory by playing better football he goes for the big muscular experienced trier every time that won’t work at man utd – fergie was similar until cantona showed him different as manager he needs to instil either by selection or inspiration the courage in the team to play attacking football and win – he truly has united playing like Everton, in the matches against scouse and city unbelievable fck off!

  4. Totally agree with jezebel there. I think in the 3 games against chelsea, city and liverpool we only had about 3 shots on target and it we only had 2 shots in the 1st hour today which is just not the utd way. It looked like we were playing with the fear in all 3 games, I honestly thought after tuesdays game that moyes had got over his nervous start and was finally getting use to being utd manger but then he goes and sets his team up like that! I also thought felliani was the worse player on the pitch today and was at fault for the 2nd and 3rd goals. I still dont know why we signed him i always thought he looked distinctly average at everton until moyes played him up top and started playing direct football, put it this way i think cleverly & anderson are better and it was a waste of nearly 30 million. I also think its time for rio to drop down the pecking order and let evans have the slot next to vidic, rio has looked off the pace so far this season and its time to move on now. As for moyes he looked like he had give after the 4th went in and that is unacceptable for a united manager he should have been encouraging the team get a couple of goals back not just sitting there twiddling his thumbs its not on if you ask me.

  5. Moyes is taking too much time to find the right combination. I still can’t figure out how young gets to be our primary winger with the likes of nani and kagawa ignored. Valencia has been totally out of sorts. He has been woeful most of d times and has almost forget that he can cross. Smalling at rb doesn’t offer much attacking wise. Fellaini was confused much of d time about the role he had to play. Rooney is looking in great form we need to complement him. I for one wouldn’t start young anymore. He has had enough and Moyes needs to understand dat. Time to put all this behind d back and get a win against scourers. Chin up Reds coz we r REDS and we will never die. Keep d red flag flying high. Ggmu

  6. clearly missing FLETCHER as we were too easily penetrated by City in the midfield. Cleverley coming on after we were 4-0 down at least balanced the midfield

    Ideally we could play Fletcher, Carrick and Fellaini in midfield and have Kagawa and Rooney in the supporting role and Van Persie upfront.

  7. Moyes is stuck in the traditional british big men model and the old fashioned 4-4-2! Line-up showed an overcautious approach and slow in changing the formation with the midfield clearly being overrun. Even when the midfield is stabilised, he did not throw in Chicha or Kagawa. SAF would have taken the risk and gone for it as clearly Rooney needed support. The game was calling for Chicha to be playing as the CF and Rooney behind him. Kagawa would have added more creativity. Moyes mentality serves a midtable team certainly not Man Utd. The heat is on and will only grow for Moyes. Another loss to Liverpoool midweek and the bayonets will be out!!!

  8. what a tool, you just got a midfielder, Fellaini, he wanted Baines as well, why didn’t this useless manager stay at Everton, if he wants their players he had them there what a moron, this guy has won nothing, how in the fuck can he get the best job in the football world


  9. Debating whether to get involved here or just leave it. Wouldnt even know where to even begin. Wow. Could be here for hours. But im not. All ill say is – what a shambles! Enough said

  10. I would love to see jones deployed at CM along with Fellaini and Carrick in the big games. They (Fellaini and Jones) would be able to bully opponets by taking posession and Carriick would be free to distribute and create.

  11. elao @ 3:57: “Great synopsis, which also raises the question: do we need to get a midfielder and if so what type? Or do we just try to find a system that works?”

    Obviously – as others have pointed out before me – the old-fashioned system based on two touchline-hugging wingers isn’t working. It might work – as it does for Bayern Munich who have Robben and Ribery – but AshleyBloodyYoung and AV25 are simply not good enough. Young, in particular, is an awful player with NO REDEEMING CHARACTERISTICS.

    That said, it’s too easy to simply blame-the-coach. He’s new to the job and has by-and-large tried to maintain continuity with SAF’s personnel/methods. Let’s not forget that those personnel/methods won the EPL by 11 points and were essentially robbed of a final-eight CL place by an atrocious refereeing decisions. However – and it’s a big, big “however” – TheLads playing some version of the 4-4-2 were not very easy-on-the-eye last year. It was clear that another midfielder was needed and TheBigFella might have had a nightmare on Sunday but he’ll come good.

    What’s most worrying is that the really skilled forwards – Nani and KagawaBunga and Chicharito – haven’t had a look-see so far this season. I know that they’ve had some injury issues but benching those three while playing Young/Valencia is suicidal. Of course, those three plus RVP and TheWayneBoy can’t all play at the same time but four of the five should be chosen all of the time rather than persisting with the incompetent system of incompetent touchline-hugging wingers.

    One might also ask why Jonny Evans hasn’t had any game-time – especially after Sunday’s atrocity when BOTH Rio AND CaptainVidic were ball-watching and/or out-of-position for all the goals. Additionally, the speedy ManShitty’s forwards – especially Aguero as well as Navas, and Nasri – really had a field-day with Chris Smalling who had done well in mid-week but was rag-dolled (and left unprotected which led to the first goal).

    One horrific match doesn’t signify much of anything – but what’s really worrying is that the complete lack of offensive/attacking creativity on display on Sunday was almost a carbon-copy of the draw with CSKALondon and the lost to LiverPoo at AnFailed.

    On the bright side, take a peek at UTD’s upcoming ten fixtures in the EPL – only the matches against TheArse and Spurs should be in doubt. If that’s the case then UTD will be first by early December and the Sunday embarassment will be just about as meaningful as the 6-1 drubbing at OT two years ago – after which UTD went on to build an eight-point margin only to fail in the stretch-drive. Let’s just hope that a lot of lessons were learned from this recent horror-show as well as from the earlier one when SAF’s team choked down the stretch as opposed to last season when they just cantered home.

  12. doron you say we should stick with moyes. why? what’s the point – he’s a clown can’t win big games look he left everton and everton is flourishing now he (moyes) is defensive small minded coach he won’t change, our best players (kagawa, nani) not playing under him. the footbal style is just FUCKING AWFUL. so why we should stick with him, any chnace of change of his style or mentality, he never won away game at big four and we all know why now, fucking coward this is that he is..

  13. Agree with minimal. Moyes is awful. We cannot give to much time. Football is all about the money. Look, we couldnt sign anyone after winning the league, we sure as hell wont be able to sign reinforcements after we dont qualify for champions league. I for one wished we would have signed Jose or Laudrup for that matter. Time to bring in the young blood and let them shine. Bring in Januzaj, zaha, bring back Lingard from birmingham, take out geratric rio, put in evans in centre back.
    We need to dump, anderson, giggs needs to retire, fletcher needs to retire, young needs to be demoted to a championship squad. Was never worth of wearing the red shirt of manchester.

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