Manchester United lost 2-1 at Old Trafford to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in the Derby for the second straight season and contributing writer, Nathan Quao, of Citi Sports, Accra, points out the major talking points from the encounter.
What a way for your first Premier League derby day to go!!! Two attempts at clearing the ball were botched and they ended up in the net.
Add a save late on from Ederson in post for Manchester City and you will agree that December 10, 2017 was not one for Romelu Lukaku.
He struggled all game to get going and the few breaks that fell to him could not be utilised.
Of course, it will increase the conversation around him and his price tag.
The comparisons will start again and there will be a few who will doubt his quality.
Does he need to be benched for a spell? What will the manager do to help him? Does the team’s shape in these big games need to be one which provides him with enough support?
These are questions that need to be answered as the season plays out but it will be fair to admit that the Lukaku’s first Derby in the league setting was very poor and he will have to recover quickly else when the weight gets too heavy he will fail and the team will suffer dearly for it.
Collective team failure
For a match that had so much value and importance, Manchester United’s players took too long to realise it. The first half until the exchange of goals was for Man City and the Red Devils looked well below par.
The performance lacked strength, power, commitment and passion. Clearances looked like afterthoughts and there was no drive in the counter-attacking situations.
One can even say an amount of fear hung in the air of the red side of Manchester.
The pace of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford was severely under-utilised on the day especially to target Fabian Delph, who was at left back for Man City. That was a good way for the Red Devils to have responded but that chance was left to go.
Whether it was accidental or tactical, the reliable Antonio Valencia looked out of it. Jesse Lingard could not press as needed and there was nothing to feed on the offensive for large part of the game.
Man United failed to show their hand and their intentions and Man City kept plugging at it until they got their openings. Some will call their goals ‘lucky’ but in football, teams make their own luck.
They keep going at it until the crack appears and they go on to feed on the chance.
Manchester United were not at the races at the critical time and they were beaten deservedly.
Fight for second place now?
With Man City 11 points clear, perhaps it time to focus on keeping hold of second place.
Agreed, there are 22 matches to be played and the dynamics will go this way and that. There will be slip-ups and there will be opportunities to open up gaps on the rest of the chasing pack.
Jose Mourinho and his players will have to devise a plan to keep the Red Devils in their current spot because that will be a marked improvement from when Sir Alex Ferguson left.
The manager has taught the team how to win trophies and the biggest reward for that is the UEFA Champions League campaign which has gone well so far.
Trying to catch Man City may be fruitless because of their current form. They will have to lose four times for their eleven-point to evaporate and they do not look like they will give anything away.
It is unclear what Mourinho will do in January but the push for second place will require some more quality in the squad in the left-back, wing position and number 10 positions.
The team needs to be improved because chasing second place has its own long and drawn-out war against teams who have better quality in the aforementioned positions.
Getting the Red Devils ready for that is primordial for taking chances that will surely come due to other results.
PS: Huge shouts to Rashford. He got his second Manchester Derby goal. He will score a lot more in future and the hope is that they will be part of victories for the Red Devils.