The Manchester Derby: Tactics board and analysis
Location: Etihad Stadium, M11, Manchester.
Time: 4 PM local time.
Beaten, humiliated, disgraced; three words that would sting Manchester United fans all the way for the next five months or so till the next derby comes around. Bragging rights in City’s bag, and on the occasion of the respective managers’ first ever Manchester derby, Manuel Pellegrini might well be sipping down a pint of ale while David Moyes gets back to the proverbial drawing board. Manchester City’s demolition job on their local rivals heaped further trouble on the already troubled Moyes, who was beset by the absence of talismanic goal machine Robin van Persie to a groin injury. City’s dominion proved too hot to handle, and predictably enough, the blue half of Manchester came away with a typically silky and sumptuous 4-1 victory over the champions. This win, for now at least, allays fears and skepticism surrounding Pellegrini’s bedding in period, and leaves his counterpart with too much to ponder too soon. A gorgeous performance by the Citizens, who were without their little magician David Silva, but the likes of Kun Aguero and Samir Nasri had enough in them to see off the lackluster Reds.
STARTING LINE-UPS AND INITIAL REACTIONS
City had been slated last weekend for a surprisingly dour away draw at Stoke, but had much cause for optimism after their midweek Champions League win at Plzen. Manager Pellegrini started with an attack-minded line-up, starting with his full strength attacking unit but equally mixing caution with aggression, Fernandinho along with Yaya Toure pivoting an ominous looking midfield. 4-4-1-1 on paper was the starting formation, but it eventually turned out to be more of a 3-4-3 as the game progressed, Samir Nasri alongside the brilliant Kun Aguero in the pockets ahead of the United backline and new recruit Alvaro Negredo playing off the last man. The full-backs Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksander Kolarov were expected to surge forward at every opportune moment, while Jesus Navas did what he does best, widening the perimeter of the pitch and hugging the touchline. City were at their defensive best, with first choice center backs Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic showing exactly why they were missed early on in the season.
Manchester United had to make do without the mercurial talents of Robin van Persie, but David Moyes stuck to his tried and tested 4-2-3-1, Wayne Rooney being his chief schemer. The out-of-sorts wing duo of Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young started, much to the surprise and angst of the fans who had expected the likes of Shinji Kagawa or Javier Hernandez to start. Moyes, though had other thoughts, and much like his Everton days of old, found caution as the best option. New signing Marouane Fellaini started alongside Michael Carrick in midfield, while Danny Welbeck was the lone ranger up front. The defense had an all too familiar look, with no change from their midweek European clash.
FIRST HALF: CITY RUN UNITED RAGGED
City displayed beautiful football from the off, mixing well placed interchanges with direct play, but more often than not, were found wanting at the dead end. The quick interchanges between the nimble footed Nasri and Aguero were a sight to behold, as was the brilliant forays by the full backs. Aguero in particular, was a handful for the United midfield, as the game almost seemed to pass Fellaini by. Carrick was almost as anonymous, as the majestic Yaya Toure brilliantly pulled the strings from midfield. The inevitable arrived on the 16th minute, and defensive lapses coupled with eye-watering football saw David de Gea pick the ball out from the net after a glorious finish by Aguero. Samir Nasri sprinted down the left, Kolarov overlapped, and supplied an inch perfect cross for Aguero to drive home. Defensive mistakes were the key here, as you watch these screenshots, Nasri sprinted forward with the ball, Valencia allowed his man Kolarov to loosen up and accelerate forward, while Aguero at the center of the park had virtually no one near him, the likes of Fellaini and Carrick lumbered as they tracked back, and rest is history. City 1 United 0.
The rest of the half was virtually one-way traffic, City not clinical enough to score another until Yaya Toure intervened, scoring his third goal of the season from a corner. Nasri supplied the delivery, and both Vidic and Chris Smalling mistimed their jumps as Negredo prodded the ball onto Toure’s path who finished with a tap-in just on the stroke of half time. United were utterly found wanting, and Moyes would likely have said some choice words to his players at the interval. City 2 United 0. City ran the champions ragged, and could’ve had a couple more before the break. For United though, Danny Welbeck wasn’t finding spaces and Rooney tried to conjure something out of nothing, which more often than not turned into nothing. Kompany and Nastasic were rock solid at the back, not even letting an inch of space.
SECOND HALF: EARLY GOALS DENT UNITED
City’s intensity stunned United once again, as a quick break led by Aguero found United wanting again. Nasri was again the creator-in-chief, the Frenchman worked the channel to find a perfectly weighted through ball for Negredo, who held off Vidic with his brute strength, and had the technique to turn around and cross for Aguero to nod home. Again Fellaini was caught ball-watching, Aguero simply ran around him to meet the cross. As evident from the screenshots below, we could see United midfielders scampering back as Fernandinho plays the ball left to Nasri, who forces his way to the box and finds Negredo. Notice the lax positioning of the defenders, as Aguero virtually has a free run, with no runners marking him. Rio Ferdinand and Fellaini were caught napping, as you don’t give a dangerous player like Aguero so much space inside the box, and he duly meted out the punishment. City 3 United 0.
The fourth came soon after, in the 50th minute, and this time Nasri deservedly got himself on the score sheet. A lightning quick break from Navas caught the United rearguard unawares, and from the screenshot below, you could see how disorganized the defense became, and the big man in Kompany certainly played a part there. Michael Carrick shouldn’t have left Aguero alone, while Nasri must be forgiven for thinking the game to be a practice match, so much space and time being afforded to him there. Calamitous defending to say the least and United need to improve this facet of their game if they are to harbor any hopes of catching City this season. City 4 United 0.
Wayne Rooney added a consolation goal for United with a wondrous free kick, but it was already game over by then. City relaxed a bit in the second half, and this resulted in concerted and long spells of Manchester United possession, but City never looked in any danger of losing their four-goal lead. By then City had done their job, as Fellaini was pushed forward to provide some attacking thrust. Rooney’s goal showed how head and shoulders he is above the rest of the red-clad players on the pitch, and Moyes must have realized how important a cog Rooney is for the Manchester United machine. But for now, Rooney’s colleagues must raise their levels or else they risk falling further behind the pace-setters. Manchester United’s midfield was overworked by City’s technically brilliant players, and Marouane Fellaini should improve his overall gameplay in order to endear himself to the Stretford End faithful, his below par performance showed exactly why fans fumed and balked at the money spent to sign him. Far from the finished article, the 25-year-old Belgian must do more than sporting an Afro to emulate Roy Keane at the heart of United’s midfield.
With this overwhelming victory, Manchester City went some way in avenging last season’s heartbreaking loss at the same stadium. City look well-poised to launch an assault, with their top guns back in full form and fitness bar David Silva, it will take quite a beating to knock City off their groove. Manuel Pellegrini has found the right balance to his side, and with Stevan Jovetic cooling his heels on the bench as an unused substitute, City fans can gear up for something special this term. As for the defending champions, David Moyes needs to address the vivid problems quickly, as seven points from five games doesn’t make the league table a pleasant reading, both for their frantic sets of supporters and the powerbrokers at the top. Job security might be one thing on Moyes’ mind, but whatever he does, he better do them quickly. The clamour for Shinji Kagawa reaches tipping point, as fans have got frustrated with the underwhelming Ashley Young, as evidenced by the twitter outbursts late last night. The following image from itvsport’s official twitter handle @ITVFOOTBALL gives us enough of how the fans felt about their underperforming stars.
Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri, and Vincent Kompany could all have been worthy man-of-the-match winners, but my vote goes to Kun for his wonderful display. Aguero scored twice and was at the heart of everything good City produced. His ability to scheme things in the absence of Silva, plus his link-up play with Nasri and Negredo must’ve left the fans salivating. A wonderful talent, the diminutive Argentine has repaid every penny Sheikh Mansour and co paid to bring him to Eastlands.
As far the flop-of-the-match goes, I couldn’t go further than the burly Fellaini. Fellaini looked out of place most of the game, and was given a sparring by the physically imposing and technically good City midfielders. He was at fault for almost all the goals conceded, and looked desperately out of pace against the small City attackers. He spent most of the time lumbering and ball-watching, but he needs to analyze his performance today and measure himself in order to improve markedly and repay the faith entrusted on him.
Manchester City’s intensity and running totally floored United even before they started going. Their full backs were almost always at hand to support the attackers, and this was also partly helped by United’s tendency to sit deep. City’s 4-1 defeat of United is the heaviest ever meted out in Eastlands since 2004, and David Moyes’ tendency for caution will not have pleased many. City were technically better, tactically better, and had better players. But great teams always bounce back from the dead, and David Moyes would do well to realize he is the manager of one such great team. A bit of a one-sided game, but nevertheless, a beautiful advert for the Premier League and English football as a whole.
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