The Red Devils froze at the Etihad. 4-0 down at half time for the second time this season, having only played 7 games is quite shocking. Foden and Haaland both had a double in the first half. They each got 1 in the second to get themselves hat tricks. Antony curled a lovely effort and Martial came on to score two to make the scoreline somewhat more respectable than it should have been. It was a truly awful day at the office for Ten Hag’s men.
With the state United have been in for the past decade, our closest rivals have sped past us and in the games we face them in, we usually set up like the lesser team. That means be willing to concede space in front of them and possession of the ball. It has been a game plan that has worked well against Man City in recent years as United have been able to utilise their pace in transition to get at the high line of the Citizens. But even when playing like that, you need to be brave. Have the fortitude and courage to keep going with the man when they drop into deeper places. To take the extra touch when you know you have the space to do so.
United looked utterly frightened of having to play Man City in this derby. It looked as if these were competition winners that flustered by the bright lights of the Premier League. Strangely enough, it wasn’t the defenders that were culpable of looking pathetic on the ball. It was the attackers and midfielders. The front 6, to a man, showed the worst of their football. Rashford looked as if he had rushed himself back for this game, with the injury that forced him off vs Arsenal still obviously lingering. Sancho done everything wrong – too many touches when less was needed and not enough when more was needed. Antony was a ghost outside of that the sensational consolation he managed to get. It was the midfield though that was truly despicable.
To be honest, I have come to expect it of Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay. Performances like this aren’t too far away with them. It was the fact that Eriksen decided to join them at that low ebb and even proceeded go even lower on occasion. The trio’s touches were akin to something I saw in the Sidemen charity match. The passes were astonishingly wayward. It was so bad at one point that all you could do is laugh. The shape against the ball was even worse, mind you. Hardly do you see Man City run into as much space as they had today. It was a stretched midfield and United have played this makeshift midfield for the past month and if today was anything to go by, it shouldn’t be on that we see again. An infographic before the game showed how inferior United have been to Man City since Ferguson’s retirement and today was just an enshrinement of that inferiority.
The players on the day were pathetic but Ten Hag’s plan was naive. The wingers were staying high and wide, leaving their full backs to fend for themselves. Malacia and Dalot being on yellow cards in the first 30 mins was a testament to how much they were being run ragged. The amount of times City went down their left hand side should have surely shown Ten Hag that the shape had to be changed. Antony was constantly caught up the pitch, through both his lack of effort to get back and the fact Ten Hag told him to stay up there. It made it incredibly difficult for United to suppress the waves of City’s flank attacks.
The only consolation is that Martial managed to get two goals today. The first was a poacher goal that you seldom see him get and the second from a penalty he won, like he did 18 months ago. Bruno dispatched that one, where we managed to win 2-0. Martial’s confidence meant he went to pick up the ball and stick it right into the top corner. Hopefully he can stay fit as the team is clearly better with him in it.