1. In writing this I am acknowledging that yesterday actually happened. We actually lost 6-1 to City at Old Trafford. There aren’t many worse days than that for us but even just in recent times, I’d argue the 4-1 against Liverpool and the 2-1 during the Munich 50th anniversary week hurt more. It was the worst day for our manager though, he claimed after the final whistle, so now we have to see what he will do to remedy it.
2. It was surprising to see Nemanja Vidic left out of the squad after playing in Europe during the week but with Jonny Evans doing well so far this season, it wasn’t a massive worry. There were several things which contributed to our downfall but none more obvious that Evans. It was his sloppy pass in City’s half which lead to their opening goal, at a time when United had been on top and in control of the game. The ball then came to him a few yards out in front of City’s goal and he swung and missed. Then, to finish the game, he got himself sent off. Mario Balotelli shrugged him off with ease, forcing him away from the ball, so Evans grabbed on to him to pull him back. Insanity. Leave David de Gea with a one and one and see what happens. If Balotelli scores, then 2-0 with 45 minutes is something we can work with (as we did at Wembley a few months ago). But 1-0 down and playing with 10 men for 45 minutes is not something you can work with. Every goal that went in made Evans’ mistake all the more painful. This isn’t about scapegoats or claiming he isn’t good enough for the club or I want rid of him. If we are going to look at yesterday honestly, Evans’ contribution was the overwhelming difference between us having a good game and the possibility of a good result, and us getting smashed 6-1 in our derby. Not unforgivable by any means, everyone makes mistakes, but Chris Smalling has to have moved above him pecking order without question now.
3. United started the game well and dominated much of the first half. We weren’t clinical enough with our final ball but most of the match was played in their half of the pitch. When you’re on top against good sides you need to make it count and we needed a goal. To then be chasing the game when you’ve been the better team is a horrible position to be put in but that’s where we found ourselves. Just as Balotelli found himself unmarked just inside our box, Welbeck got himself in a similar position when we were a goal down. Ashley Young opted to go for the back post though (you know, for all those massive players we have waiting in the box), much to Welbeck’s frustration, and it’s small moments like that which make the difference. City’s decision making was better than ours, not just going forward, but defensively too.
4. Both Darren Fletcher and Sir Alex Ferguson have acknowledged that United were foolish in relentlessly attacking when the game was a lost cause. Fletcher’s goal restored some pride in the day, with 3-1 a respectable scoreline for a team that had played with ten men for 45 minutes. With ten minutes to go, there was no way we were going to score another two goals, but our never say die attitude cost us dearly. Time and again we were caught on the break, with just a defender or two left in our half as we poured our men forward. Why? It was ridiculous. The manager can criticise Evra and Ferdinand for not showing their experience and keeping the team back but I didn’t see Sir Alex on the touchline barking at them to come back either (that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Did it? I was otherwise engaged).
5. How many fans left too early yesterday? A defiant majority stayed in their seats, singing “we’re Man United, we stay til the end” at the wankers who made their move, but the ground was half full by the final whistle. All clubs have fans who leave with five minutes to go but there were some people near me who left when the third goal went in, when there was still over 20 minutes to play! Obviously it was game over then but what absolutely disgraceful “support” that shows. You only come to watch us win? My exchanges with these people, who are season ticket holders by the way, will make for some awkwardness at the next home game and I suppose I’m grateful for having someone to direct my frustration at, but I can’t abide by the attitude of some of our fans.
6. As far as I’m concerned, we’ll still win the league. United crumbled in the end and that is a worry, although you imagine it’s an inexperienced mistake we won’t make again. With 90 minutes gone, City had played our 10 men for half the game, were beating us 3-1 and had just 51% possession. There’s no excuse for throwing away all those goals at the end but City were hardly terrifying yesterday. If they are the team we have to finish above to make it 20, I’m happy enough with that. Shit day at the office and a blot on our season but we will be the ones laughing in May.