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United will recover from derby day disaster

There are bad days, and there are really bad days. Yesterday was one of those days for United and United supporters, with the embarrassment of embarrassments at Old Trafford.

Losing to City is one thing, but losing 6-1 to City, at home no less, and losing to City in the manner that it all unfolded, makes it even harder to swallow. But while scorelines and football stats are what people tend to pay the most attention to, when you can look deeper and see how different a result could have been were it not for a couple of key moments, that’s what can drive the stake through even more.

As bad as it all ended, no one could have guessed it would from how it started. Manchester United started positively, dominating possession over the first 20 minutes and looking the more likely side to break the deadlock.

However, United were also the better side throughout the first half in the Community Shield in August, and United ended up down 2-0 at halftime before roaring back for a 3-2 win. And as was the case at Wembley, United were not only unable to translate early superiority into a lead, they fell behind. Jonny Evans made the schoolboy mistake of turning his attention to the ball and away from Mario Balotelli, who was afforded time and space to fire a shot that Evans’ lunge of desperation couldn’t keep from beating David de Gea.

That’s how it would remain until the whistle blew to end the first half, but at that point, United were still very much in the game. We’ve seen many times over the years how adept United are at overturning deficits, so the deficit was far from insurmountable, especially at home.

However, what any optimism didn’t account for was the potential of going down to ten men before there was time to get settled in after the restart. Evans got caught watching the ball instead of Balotelli again, allowing him to get by him with De Gea all by his lonesome. And as he was the last man, trying to prevent Balotelli from advancing without as much as a half-attempt to play the ball fully merited the decision that Mark Clattenburg made after the Italian went tumbling to the ground just as he reached the penalty area.

Still, there was still reason for optimism, because we’ve seen United do some great things even with a numbers disadvantage. Unfortunately, City were out for blood, and understandably so, so instead of seeing what good things can happen when you‘re trying to make a comeback down a man, we got to see the opposite end of the spectrum, to put it mildly.

It was game, set, match when Balotelli and Sergio Aguero made it 3-0, but as you‘d have expected, United continued to fight, and Darren Fletcher pulled one back with less than ten minutes to go. But as admirable as not giving up is, it only served to play into the hands of a team who had a real point to prove. And so, as the final minutes ticked down, disappointment turned into horror as City added a fourth, then a fifth, and finally a sixth.

City were a team on a mission, and they executed that mission very well yesterday, much to the chagrin of anyone who was in red. Possession for the game was nearly even, with City holding a slight edge at 51%, but United’s failure to turn their early dominance in that area into a goal proved to be costly, especially after Evans saw red.

But it’s far too early for anyone to say that the win means that the balance of power is shifting or that United’s hopes for a 20th title are done and dusted. Here come the clichés, sure, but they’re all true.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and if titles were won in October and not in May, then United would have far fewer titles, wouldn’t they? Fair play to City for their win, and they have every reason to celebrate, but there are more than two dozen matches left in the season, and as we’ve seen over the years, there are many more twists and turns to come.

Whatever side you’re on, derby wins mean bragging rights for several months, but it could end up being that a match against QPR or Swansea will have more of an impact on the outcome of the title race than this one, and that‘s something that would apply irrespective of yesterday‘s result.

In the end, the result, as bad as it is to look at, could amount to nothing more than a really bad day at the office if United have the right response. When you suffer embarrassment, you can either hang your hand and let it break you, or you can regroup, rise up, and come back better and stronger for it.

Roberto Mancini expects the latter, and more importantly, so does Fergie, who said in his post-match comments:

“We’ll come back. By January we’ll be okay. We usually get the show on the road in the second half of the season and that will have to be the case.”

“We’ve played all the teams around us and they have all to play each other so the second half of the season is important to us now.

“We will react, no question about that. It’s a perfect result for us to react to because there is a lot of embarrassment in the dressing room and that will make an impact.”

United’s penchant for never giving up may have proven detrimental yesterday, but that never-say-die attitude has seen the club overcome adversity, potentially crushing defeats, and being written off by the masses too many times to count. Should we expect anything less this time? I think not.

For more in-depth match analysis and statistics from many leagues and competitions around the world, check out WhoScored.com.

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135 Comments

  1. StatesideAussie says:

    We are definitely a team (oops, squad) in transition. Over the last few years, we have totally relied on rotation. We haven’t had a “first 11″, nor even a large core of first-choice players. Even when everyone has been fit and available, over the last few years (certainly since CR left) our core players have been limited to VDS, Vidic, Rio, Evra and Rooney. Perhaps, last year, we could have added Nani to that too. But I always thought it instructive that our “core group” of first-choice players did not include any central midfielder. It would have included Scholes, except his age meant he couldn’t do it week-in, week-out. Same with Giggs. I’m not saying the others were crap. I’m just pointing out that if you knew there was “a match” coming up, and all the players were fit and available and there was no reason to hold anyone out, the only starting names you could write down with any confidence would have been those five, and possibly Nani, none of them a midfielder.

    And yet the midfield is the spine of any team.

    This year, the situation has gotten worse. One of our core players (VDS) has retired, two others (Rio and Vidic) have been injured (and in Rio’s case, even when he’s not injured, I think he has reached the stage where he can’t play every week anyway), and Evra is out of sorts.

    Even a squad that uses rotationas much as ours, still requires some stability. You still need some sort of stable core around which “the others” can be switched in or out. And that seems to be the problem this year — that finally, we have stretched it too far. We no longer have a skeleton that we can dress up in various ways. We just have this sort of jellyfish thing which sticks out a tentacle here or there and can occasionally sting the fuck of the enemy, but doesn’t actually have a backbone.

  2. T4M says:

    we will recover no doubt.

  3. Sabada says:

    In Sir Alex I Believe

  4. LoneStarRed says:

    @Stateside….I very much agree. There must be a constant here. Out team is young and that means keeping it simple until experience internalizes options to the point that it moves at the speed of thought. A core group has constant responsibilities and the rest can be interchanged. And, we don’t have the luxury like Barca of not being in a very physical league.

  5. Balaji Sivaraman says:

    @Giles & Stateside, Top posts as per usual.

    Stateside, What do you think about adding Tom to that list? I’ve been beating his drums ever since the loss. Now, not for one minute am I saying that all our problems will be solved once he returns. But I am pretty sure that the general credibility of our mid-field and the level of its performance will definitely improve with Tom Cleverley in the lineup than without him. That is not putting a lot of pressure on him. I am not expecting him to run defenses ragged immediately like Scholesy used to in his heyday. But I am expecting him to provide a certain level of solidity to our mid-field that Vidic does to our defense. I am expecting him to improve our general play through the middle, and I certainly think he is well-equipped to do that.

    As for the defense, well, I don’t have to say anything that hasn’t already been said by you or Giles or Denton. Sir Alex knows there is a problem, and I hope that he sorts it out by the Everton game. We should see a difference on Saturday. That much is certain.

  6. Zibbie says:

    Great read
    LSR defense wins championships.
    Willie only SAF knows why! ??? !

  7. Balaji Sivaraman says:

    I meant solidity in a general sense and not in a defensive sense obviously. I meant that Tom will allow us to get the ball down and pass it to our forwards and wide players more often than we’ve done in the past few weeks. Both Nani and Young, not to mention Rooney as well, have looked ineffective because of the lack of service from the middle. I feel the return of Cleverley will address that problem for now. As for the other gaping problem of lack of defensive solidity, I don’t have any answers to that.

  8. StatesideAussie says:

    Balaji … I think TC probably is being groomed to become that “constant” in midfield, which we have lacked for some years now. Obviously, a different type of player to keane and others we have had there. And likewise, I reckon Smalling and Jones are pegged to take Rio and Vida’s places in the “core group”. Others, like Pogba, are also ear-marked, no doubt. The trouble is, I don’t think any of them have fully established themselves yet. I think there’s an excellent chance that they will, but it’s too early. Which is why, of course, we’re a team in transition. But the transition is a process, not an event — meaning it takes time.

    Just thinking about it … it may even be that our increased usage of a rotational system has in part been a deliberate ploy by Sir Alex to compensate for the fact that, as players like Keane and Scholes left, he couldn’t just replace them — because players of that calibre just aren’t readily available whenever you need them. They really are “once in a generation” players. If you hired Da Vinci as your artist-in-residence, what do when he dies or retires? Obviously, it would be great to find and hire “the next da Vinci”, but that’s not a plan, it’s a lottery. You can’t know when the next da Vinci will come along, and even when he does, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to get him. So maybe what you do is invent a totally different business plan — one that doesn’t require a da Vinci — and live off that 9while all the time keeping your eyes open…) Bad analogy, perhaps, but the best I can do :-)

  9. Giggs12Gerrard0 says:

    @ Stateside, belaji, LSR, Giles lads great posts loved Reading through the conversation

    @Lady G mate you need to chil pal as in your rants I agree with some points but you seem to be on a mission with a few in here! yesterday you was calling for Fergies head which forget the so called clique in here will piss most proper united fans off. I replied yesterday and I don’t mean proper as a ROM wank fest or the continuous spouting believe proper as in understanding what SAF is to us as it’s bit like were in decline were the current champions!
    With that I do agree that you should be able to come on here and vent as we were fucking awful and slapped 6-1 by them it doesn’t get any worse! Too many people have knee jerk responses though condemning everything from Evans to Fergie! In reality we are probably three players off challenging Europe and a class midfielder away from our usual Prem dominance!

    Given what SAF and the team have done for us in recent times regardless of results and shit performances can we just not support our fucking club no matter what? I’ll be at Akdershot tomorrow bouncing and I’ll tell you what I’m saving this thread and yesterdays fir may as I am predicting we will be fucking right up there as per usual and no need for a postmortem everytime we slip off the tracks! Sometimes a spanking is what you need, yep I have been ruined since yesterday but it will make it all more the sweeter when we price the ABU’s wrong again!

  10. T4M says:

    here’s what i saw a scouser say:”I’ve been saying for months that this Manu side is average and Manu fans would come back at me with venom and mirth.I’m not having a go at them,i’m just saying what i can see with my own two eyes.This result was coming for a while.With the strenght of the Man City squad and the strength of the Chelsea squad plus the nouse of AVB,i can see them fighting for the title and Manu fighting it out with Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs for the other 2 spots.All good things come to an end Manu.20 years of dominance is long enough.I know as a Liverpool supporter when an era is over and this era is over for Manu”

  11. Costas says:

    @LoneStarRed

    Ha, cheers for the video. No denying that he has talent, but I feel that you can neutralize him by just outsmarting him. It’s not that hard. Like stealing candy from a baby, lol. Among other things, I think we had a serious problem defending against his and Silva’s movement. And as a result, Milner was finding all the room in the world. What a mess.

  12. LoneStarRed says:

    @T4M
    Thanks for stopping by.

    You assume our situations are similar…they are not. Just on the surface , the core of your team is old and your transfer market moves are dubious at best and self destructive at worst. Our team problems are borne from youth and inexperience. To sum it up , LFC is in notable decay and we are nascent. Even so we are still challenging for top.

  13. Sparkz says:

    @Stateside- would you not put Carrick in that core group? Obviously not any more, but up until this season, he’s been the constant in the middle of the park- when fit he played. His partners have constantly changed….Scholesy, Fletch, Ando, Giggsy….but he’s been there the whole way.

  14. CedarsDevil says:

    Lady Gaga

    Why so upset babe? I never even addressed you darling

  15. LoneStarRed says:

    @Costas

    Your point really amplifies our lack of midfield control. The only really creative players on City are Adam Johnson (underutilized) , Silva ( who ripped us a new one yesterday) and Aguero (instinctive and deadly). Bibatelli , on his day can be included but he is wildly inconsistent.

    The rest are opportunists with no real flair, i.e . Milner and Barry ( FA robots as they have been called here) . So if they are contained and pressed , they are ineffective. (wait, was I talking about our midfield right now…) So for Milner to shine says we did not get it done.

  16. StatesideAussie says:

    Sparkz … no, I don’t think so. Carrick has obviously been a significant player for us but I don’t think he has been treated as an almost certain starter. The only other one who was close was Park, and that was only in Europe and major domestic games.

  17. LoneStarRed says:

    @T4M

    My reply is to your quoted Scouser.

  18. Sparkz says:

    @Stateside- 52, 49, 43, 44, 44……….how many games he’s played in the last 5 seasons. More than any of our other midfielder mate!

    Think of a random game in the last 5 seasons, and chances are he played in them! The fact that he was the only player with the discipline to sit in front of the back 4 (as Hargreaves was crocked) meant that he was always gonna be a near certain starter.

  19. StatesideAussie says:

    Sparks … right, but that isn’t really what I meant by core players. What I meant is, who are the players that Fergie would always want to play, wouldn’t even consider any alternatives for (unless they were unavailable). We know that Rooney will start, unless he’s injured, suspended or the schedule is congested. Until this year, we knew that VDS would start. We could still say that about Rio and Vidic and Evra — those, rightly or wrongly, have generally been Sir Alex’s first choice players. Nani is close. And, in Europe, Park for sure. But I wouldn’t say that about cariick. It’s not a quality judgment. In fact, I appreciate Carrick a lot more than many on here. But if Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson, Park, Giggs and Cleveley were all fit and available, and we had no other fixtures coming up, can you say for sure that Sir Alex would almost certainly pick Carrick as one of his two in the middle? I’m not asking whether you think he should play or not, I am asking what you think SAF would do — how much would you be prepared to bet that his name would be on the starting team sheet? And if you ask me, I wouldn’t be confident at all about predicting the line-up.

  20. Sparkz says:

    @Stateside- “But if Carrick, Fletcher, Anderson, Park, Giggs and Cleveley were all fit and available, and we had no other fixtures coming up, can you say for sure that Sir Alex would almost certainly pick Carrick as one of his two in the middle? ”

    Now? Nope. But for most of the last 5 years? Yes, I have been, and that was shown by Fergie’s team selections for many seasons…Carrick was almost always there.

    As I mentioned before, now things have changed.

  21. jaschadavid says:

    How many teams are there who go on the attack when they are ten men down?

    1 = Manchester United.

    if we were to sit back, the fans and ABUs will slate us for being cowards
    if we were to attack, we might have a chance to snatch something at least.

    Glory Glory MU!

  22. Sparkz says:

    Bit of a non story IMO. Vidic was always gonna play vs Aldershot, he needs match practice.

    If Fergie was really gonna punish the guys from Sunday and make them play vs Aldershot….then why on the Mail’s “probable team”, is Jones the only player from Sunday?

    I don’t doubt that he gave them a hairdryer in the dressing room, but that was pretty obvious, no great journalism there!

  23. StatesideAussie says:

    The most interesting thing about Daily Fail story is the photo: Rooney, Hernandez, Fletcher and Evra all standing there hands on hips. It was at a kick-off, not sure which one.

  24. LoneStarRed says:

    An ass chewing from the gaffer was a total given . It seems that a lot of the British papers are just as good as the American ones……….for lining a litter box.

  25. bobkoh says:

    Utd will be back.

  26. Natzca says:

    I don’t understand the continuous negative comments we keep getting about our players and team,
    and this isn’t just recent, it happens year in, year out.

    The way some carry on, you’d never guess United is the most successful club in England…
    an outsider would think we’re Newcastle or dare say pool.

    Facts are, we’re strong, very strong and have been for a while,
    when complacency seeps in, doesn’t matter how great things are, people need to find something to have a whinge about.

    Granted, we got taught a lesson on the weekend, but one thing we do is learn from lessons and bounce back.

    my money is still on United for the 20th.
    it’s not one win that gets the trophy, SAF knows that.

  27. StatesideAussie says:

    Interesting story from Gary Pallister about how the boss reacted to our 5-1 defeat by City in 1989:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/8846736/Sir-Alex-Ferguson-will-stay-calm-but-use-pain-of-defeat-to-motivate-Manchester-United-revival-says-Gary-Pallister.html

    It’s interesting in the context because a lot of people on here expected massive hair dryers from Sir Alex after yesterday but I wasn’t so sure. I guess he did give the hair dryer this time, but I was actually expecting something more like Pallister describes here.

  28. Giggs12Gerrard0 says:

    @stateside

    interesting you have never seen Carrick as a regular starter. I think the first three years he was a guaranteed starter for me as he played in every game in which we played full strength. He was instrumental in 2007 and 2008. I thought after last weeks performance in Europe he definately would have started ahead of Ando on Sunday.

  29. Giggs12Gerrard0 says:

    @Stateside

    the pic of the players hands on hips was the 4th goal as that as that was the most deflating one inside the ground as we had a glimmer of hope after Fletch’s.

  30. Anand says:

    Some points which my friend and i noted during the last 5 – 6 matches, starting the one with Stoke.
    1. Evra was way too casual with the ball, and lost it too frequently as a result.
    2. Our first touch on the ball is rubbish, especially Welbeck. When you have just 2 touches to gain an advantage and attempt a goal, a lousy first touch will always make you look mediocre.
    3. Our midfield is creatively dead. Anderson, Fletcher, Carrick are average at best. Young is, well, too young. We need someone to partner Nani who can churn out quality chances to our forwards for 90 minutes of each match.
    4. Why isn’t the top scorer of last reason no longer our first pick? What he achieved last reason was not by fluke or luck, but class. Pair berba, chicharito with rooney for the majority of matches. Welbeck and owen can be substitutes.

  31. Ahmad Al-Joboori says:

    How ????!!!!

  32. Paul Parker says:

    Well said @ 19:11 Giles.

    Only Alex knows the motive behind his selections, and with it being this early in the season im sure he’s focussed on the new year. We started this campaign brilliantly, then suffered injuries to Jones, Smalling, Rio, Vidic, Welbeck and Cleverly, which staggered our progress. Recently we’ve been playing more belaboured, but we’re still not far off recapturing that early form. As you alluded, securing the platform first is vital.

  33. StatesideAussie says:

    Anand … how can you say Young is too Young? He is 26. How old does he need to be? He is a month older than TonyV and quite a bit older than Nani. Perhaps you mean to say he is immature? It’s not an opinion I agree with, but it makes more sense than saying he is too young.

  34. united_greats08 says:

    I wouldn’t care about all of those stats tbh, this ain’t basketball to begin with. But if it will provide any consolation for this defeat then so be it. We’ll always get behind our lads no matter where we are or how worse defeat may come by. They’ll bounce back, and so are we. Roll on the next match, I say. GGMU. :)

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