The City is Blue

Posted by Simon Curtis



It seems a little strange to start an article about a game in which Manchester City knocked four past Manchester United inside 60 minutes and then coasted home by writing about defenders, but that is exactly what must be done.

If you narrowed your eyes a little at the Etihad and watched Vincent Kompany, City's talismanic captain, going about his duties, you could have been forgiven for seeing Ruud Krol, or Franz Beckenbauer, or Franco Baresi, or even the legendary Anderlecht and Belgium sweeper and captain of the '70s Paul van Himst.

The City skipper was immense in everything he did, precise, decisive, athletic and unbeatable. By the time the fourth goal went into United's net, it would have been apparent to even the most casual of observers that the team in red were busy taking an absolute whipping from the team in blue.

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What might have been missed in the bubbling vortex of celebration that accompanied Samir Nasri's cushioned volley into the net, was how it had all been constructed: Kompany once again stuck out an imperious limb and nicked the ball cleanly from one of United's rare counters upfield. Instead of stopping to admire his handiwork and play a Marouane Fellaini-esque sideways ball to Matija Nastasic, he stayed on his feet, looked up and began a surge of his own. As he passed cleanly outside to the jet-heeled Jesus Navas, the eye followed the ball and the purveyor thereof. Navas ran and ran and ran, before delivering a sumptuous dinked cross to the far post for Nasri to bury past the shell-shocked David de Gea.

What might have gone unnoticed as the ball sailed into the box were the two City heads that it cleared as it reached the far post. One belonged to Alvaro Negredo, in the midst of a thumping derby debut of muscle and guile alongside the magnificent Sergio Aguero up front. The other belonged to Kompany, who had continued his lung-busting run from one box to the other. The ball cleared his diving frame and, as Nasri patted it home, there was Kompany on his knees by the near post, a picture of delight mirroring the gleaming faces in the rows before him.

If Kompany was the rock upon which City claimed this match and the city of Manchester with it, there were others who deserved to be hoisted onto the podium alongside him. Nasri, for the second game running asked to take up David Silva's magic wand in midfield; Yaya Toure, once again set free like a rampaging elephant across the savanna by Pellegrini's decision to put Fernandinho in the anchor role. The Elephant of Bondoukou is rampant, on heat and charging like he did two years ago. Quite a sight, it must be said, motoring past an ashen-faced Michael Carrick and a crablike Fellaini, £27 million worth of sideways-moving midfield inactivity.

Up front, City played boldly with Aguero and Negredo outstanding in their movement, their interplay and their non-stop closing down of United's defenders.

Whilst City fired on all cylinders, United looked a pale imitation of derbies of old. Wayne Rooney sporting an inner tube which kept flipping off his ample pate, was left to forage alone, his doleful expression a sign that he already knew he was fighting a losing battle. Questions will be asked of Moyes' ability to set a side like United up for an opponent like City in a game like the Manchester derby.

The hurry and scurry that led Everton to many scruffy and energetic wins will clearly not do for the Old Trafford hierarchy where winning is a prerequisite and winning prettily and overwhelmingly is the desire. United were limp and without punch, beaten to every ball and outmanoeuvred totally in midfield, where Antonio Valencia ran into culs-de-sac and Fellaini was eaten alive by Toure and Fernandinho.

City took their feet off the gas with fully 30 minutes to go, allowing United to rack up a reel of attempts on goal that did not fully reflect the match's denouement. Do not be fooled by the statistics. This, ladies and gentlemen, was a full-blown rout, more decisive, clearer even in its definition between winner and loser than the unforgettable 6-1 win at Old Trafford two seasons ago. In that game, City had been 3-1 ahead with injury time approaching. Here City were done and dusted with a four-goal cushion after 51 short minutes.

To Manuel Pellegrini the spoils of victory. After a jittery start, the Engineer has given us two bold, sharp-as-a-knife performances to set the season ahead up nicely. If they are reflections of the hope and glory engendered by the opening-day victory over Newcastle United in August, then those following the Blues can prepare themselves for a season of very high quality football indeed.

The signs were there at the Etihad, where the reigning Premier League Champions were defused and dismantled in under an hour, that it is to the blue half of Manchester we should start to look for clues to the season's unraveling. The power shift that began in the 6-1 and continued with the league title win two years ago, took another heavy lurch to starboard here.

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