It started well but ended as expected. Rashford put a cat amongst the pigeons with a thunderous strike. Man City finished the half with 3 xG compared to our measly 0.29. They would end the game with those three goals as Foden punched back with an equally stunning strike and then a strike across the goal in the 80th minute. Haaland put an exclamation mark as Amrabat came on to lose the ball in typical fashion. It put pay to our Champions League hopes and if there is no FA Cup win, it’ll be back to the same nothingness we have come used to when the season ends.

Dying on our feet

As much football does change, with advancements coming all the time, there are just some non-negotiables that will always be part and parcel of being a good football team. One of them is that a football team has to be compact without the ball. The starting and end point may differ in terms of how far from the opponent and their goalkeeper’s goal it is but not allowing huge spaces between your unit is a fundamental that will never change.

That was all until Ten Hag tried to successfully coach a team that allows huge gaps between their lines as a defensive unit. It has been quite the experiment to watch because quite simply, it has not worked. The players in the middle of the pitch have been overworked mentally and physically in having to pick up men and also protect the space at the same time. Carragher’s analysis where he picked up on Mainoo constantly checking whether it was best placed to go to the man or the stay in the space is something you see on a weekly basis when you tune into Man Utd games.

Today, you saw a clear plan that United would have no such spaces. It was similar to what we saw at Anfield and Emirates but there was an ability to counter punch better as Rashford and Bruno were on the pitch. Not a whole lot better but there was still more as there was an unorthodox set up with Bruno and McTominay setting up in the dual 9 positions that we saw Rangnick employ in this same game two seasons ago. The difference is that they were actually playing more like two 8s, not even 10s. It was a really defensive team and often times our best route was simply going back to front as quickly as possible, to be able to play on that first ball or potentially pick up the second.

That is where our goal came from in actual fact. Onana playing a long ball in behind that Bruno Fernandes was able to hold up well and set back to Rashford, who was able to crash it into the top of the net. The simplicity of it all is significant – it was an admission that this team is unable to do Ten Hag’s ideals in the bigger games so he has to take a step back, definitely when this team goes away from home. Unfortunately, even having to play the way we did, which was just compacting the middle of the pitch as much as possible, is something we are unable to do when we conceded as much possession as we did to our city rivals. Foden’s winner was simply the fact Casemiro, weary both from age and fatigue, could not match the legs of Englishman off that 1-2.

Even if the spaces weren’t as big as they usually were, Man City were still able to find gaps. Not simply because they are a terrific team but United are not good as unit even when they are trying to compress the space. In the end, it mirrored the Emirates game more so as two goals late on took the game away from the Red Devils. In the end, it was just the better team overcoming the worse team, a sobering though as that has been the case with Man Utd and Man City for the past decade.

The L-Ice Man

Whether he was playing at LB or CB, Lindelof truly went out of his way to deliver a complete defensive nightmare. He was off the pace on the ball and off the ball. Positionally, he was somehow able to get dominated as the ball was switched in the air. Despite the fact he was taller than those he went against. On the ball, his apparent strength, he was hopeless. He delivered a mindless first time pass into the middle of the pitch that was easily cut out. Some minutes later, he contrived to do so again. Once again, cut out. The first goal, that got Man City going, came from Lindelof laying out the sky blue carpet for Foden to cut inside onto his stronger foot and have a pop.

Right now, he is probably our 5th choice CB when everyone is fit after being looked at as the automatic choice if Varane and Martinez were unfit last season. His time at Old Trafford looks set to come to an end and it cannot come soon enough because his 6 years here have been completely unremarkable. Performances like today will remind us all that he won’t be missed at all.