Play by play: Analysing United’s defense in the Manchester Derby

Blog by: Dennis
Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League

What happened yesterday at the Etihad? Was it just plain laziness, or rather ineptness, that led the red side of Manchester to collapse like a house of cards? Was it the fact that they were missing their marquee player that made a side that hammered the space between the goal posts last year just give up the ghost near the box? Whatever it was, it left David Moyes a rather dejected Scot at the end of 90 minutes on the touchline. So let’s look back and find out just what went wrong.

Strike One – The hammering and the first death knell

The news that Robin van Persie was going to be sitting out was a joy-killer for sure, but it was the team that made its way onto the pitch that really shocked the fans with some miserable play in the first 15 minutes of the match.

‘The Engineer’ Manuel Pellegrini sent his men hunting down the left and from there they harried the United defence time and time again while keeping an iron grip on possession. Such was the domination of the City midfield that United were pushed back deep into their own half and it was there that they stayed for most of the remainder of the match. City enjoyed over 70% of the possession during the first 15 minutes and it showed as they peppered De Gea’s goal.

United never had a chance as they were unprepared for the onslaught that City unleashed on their rather listless midfield. Fellaini and Carrick were totally outmatched and the wingers upfront were neutralized by Zabaletta and Kolarov. Young, especially, had no impact at all as he was barely ever on the ball and when he did get the ball, his passes were never effective.

Welbeck was a rather lonely figure, only managing to get 15 touches on the ball during the entire first half period, the same as City keeper Joe Heart.

City cranked up the pressure and it was Antonio Valencia who cracked. Valencia, who was selected for his workmanlike playing style, and the fact that he made the effort to go back and retrieve the ball, was done in by the duo of Kolarov and Nasri who overlapped him. Kolarov went around Valencia and then sent in  a cross to Aguero who, with a bit of improvisation, slotted the ball into the net.

Kun Aguero scores the first goal for Manchester City

Sergio Aguero scores the first goal for Manchester City

Strike Two – City’s Midfield Stronghold and the double death knell

The midfield was painted blue by Yaya Toure and Samir Nasri who ensured that the supply line to the strike force was kept open and running all the time. Toure though, was the one who directed the midfield, successfully completing 38 of 43 passes for an extreme pass completion percentage of 88.37% . He blockaded the United surges, closing down any angles and forcing United’s Belgian signing Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick to keep their passes straight. He towered over Fellaini, capitalising on a defensive error from the Belgian, whose feet had apparently gone off to sleep, to slip in the second goal past the helpless Valencia and De Gea.

Yaya Toure scores the second

Yaya Toure scores the second

The second goal from Aguero was almost a carbon-copy of his first. The only difference was that Negredo joined in the fun this time. Another game of overlap was orchestrated on the hapless Valencia by Nasri and Kolarov. Kolarov then found Negredo in the box who spun Vidic around, and with his next touch put the ball right at the feet of an onrushing Aguero who calmly found the back of the net despite De Gea’s best efforts.

Like Toure’s goal in the first half, this goal came about due to numerous defensive errors brought about by some clever City play, the biggest of which was again caused by Fellaini who slowed down, keeping pace with Aguero but then didn’t speed back up along with the Argentinean who easily went on to score.

Aguero 2

Aguero scores his second

Strike Three – You’re out. The final death knell but there is something to soothe the pain of the loss

Though Aguero’s second goal outlined just how easily City were  handling United, it was Samir Nasri’s goal in the 50th minute that ensured that any hope that United would have was to grab a consolation strike. It was Vincent Kompany who made the major contribution as he got into the box and drew the centre backs towards him as Navas outpaced Fellaini to swing in a cross over to Nasri who calmly scored.

Nasri scores the 4th

Nasri scores the 4th

United though did get that consolation goal and it came from the only player in a red shirt who looked dangerous throughout the game – Wayne Rooney. The transformation of the former disgruntled no. 10 to the attack dog that we get to see these days is extraordinary and he battled against the opposition trying his level best to push the game into City’s half. So when he scored from a free kick to become the derby’s highest scorer (11 goals), it was fitting that the goal was all about him.

The goal from Rooney may have brought some joy on a rather grim Manchester evening for Moyes who saw the blue moon rising for the first time. He still has to get the squad back into shape when they face off against Liverpool on Wednesday in the Capital One Cup.

Rooney grabs his 11th Derby Goal

Rooney grabs his 11th Derby Goal

Moyes will have a monumental task ahead of him but he could do himself and the team some good by benching Young and playing Kagawa instead. The Japanese midfielder showed that he had recovered from his illness in the Champions League tie and it was a shocker not to see him play.

The other task ahead of him is to make that defense click. Smalling is proving to be a liability at the back and both centre backs were found out of position too many times. Whatever Moyes does, he needs to get the team back to its best and quick.

Perhaps he should borrow that hairdryer from Director Alex Ferguson.


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