Blog by: Srihari
From hero to villain in the space of just a single year, how things change in football. Samir Nasri was one of Manchester City’s chief orchestrators as they strolled past Manchester United, barely a year on from his infamous half-hearted attempt at blocking a free-kick from Robin van Persie, which resulted in the Dutchman scoring a last minute winner to seal United’s victory.
Whilst both sides started the game playing the same formation, it was City’s aggression and tenacity to win the ball back that led to their tactics being more effective. Unusually, both managers started the game with two strikers, something that rarely happens in big games like this one, where the stakes are so high. But as United lined up with Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, in place of the injured van Persie, City countered that with Aguero and Negredo leading the line for them.
Whilst United’s midfield four comprised of two traditional wingers on both flanks, City’s, on the other hand, had Navas on the right with Nasri starting from the left cutting inside as the game wore on. Whilst United’s wide men were rigid and hugged the touchline, Nasri came in and played some neat triangles with the strikers up front and was a bag of tricks all night.
Whilst United’s formation was fairly rigid, Nasri’s play and the presence of Yaya Touré and Fernandinho in the middle of the park meant that their fullbacks were able to push and that is precisely what created the first goal. With Nasri coming in, Kolarov was in yards of space and that was all that the Serbian needed, as he picked out a neat cross for Aguero to smash home the opener for City. The usually diligent Valencia was caught on his heels, as he couldn’t keep up with the Serbian who escaped his clutches on more than one occasion in the first half.
With Nasri coming in, it opened up the space down the left flank for Aleksandar Kolarov, who took full advantage of it right throughout the game. Immediately after the opener, the pair of them combined once again, with the Frenchman’s delicate back heel almost providing another opening as City continued to rip United apart. There was another occasion in the first half when the Serbian got past his man and his touch let him down, as there were faint appeals for a penalty by the City faithful.
The narrowness with which Nasri played meant that the left-back was Manuel Pellegrini’s most dangerous attacking weapon in the first half. While Nasri always provided an obvious forward option, he also ensured that and he made good use of the ball when he got it, as the Frenchman misplaced only four of 47 passes and was City’s chief creator in the absence of the mercurial David Silva.
Manuel Pellegrini’s insistence on playing with a four man midfield paid off this time, as their intensity and pressing meant that United just couldn’t cope with the slick passing and their silky skills. With Fellaini and Carrick still getting used to playing with one another, City were able to dominate the middle of the park and overpower them with two powerhouses in Fernandinho and Yaya Toure. Just when it looked as if United had found an answer to Toure, City went out and got another physical box-to-box player in Fernandinho, and United had no answer to the duo who bossed the game from midfield.
With the absence of Robin van Persie through injury, Moyes had to change his plans for City and his side lacked any sort of imagination throughout the game. Apart from Rooney, none of the other players looked capable of creating any opportunity. And whilst the victory was no doubt comprehensive, the tone for it was set very early on in the game.
In the opening few minutes, Kompany was charged down by Welbeck, but got back in time, before the Englishman could do any further damage. At the other end, however, United’s rock, Vidic made the most basic errors, by overplaying from the back and gifting the ball back to City and although nothing came of it, the stage was set.
Though the combination of Nasri and Kolarov certainly was a major reason for City’s victory, United’s careless defending, unwillingness to track the runners and their overall lack of desire to win the game meant that City’s job was made easier as they inflicted yet another humiliating defeat on United just like they did a few seasons ago. If he didn’t know it already, on the back of his pummeling at the hands of his city rivals, David Moyes knows that there is still a long way to go, before this United side comes close to any of their predecessors.