Although not quite as bad as losing an FA Cup final to Wigan (I'm looking at you City), this was still a terrible afternoon for Manchester United. They were outplayed, outfought and outthought by an excellent Manchester City side. The fixture list may have been unkind with early games against Liverpool, Chelsea and City, but this is still United's worst start to a season in nine years. Their performance in Sunday's derby was woeful and the champions have a lot to think about.
There were several factors that contributed to United's 4-1 defeat. The most significant of these was that Manchester City played extremely well. Vincent Kompany was imperious at the back and Sergio Aguero's opening goal was sublime. Manuel Pellegrini had done his homework and set out his side to crowd and dominate the midfield. His tactics were overwhelmingly successful and after 10 minutes City recorded 65 percent of possession. It was set to be a long afternoon.
Central to City's dominance was the performance of Yaya Toure. He managed to dictate the pace of the game and was a road block to everything Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini tried to do. How United would benefit from a player of his ilk. Late in the game David Moyes threw Tom Cleverley into the mix. It was like throwing an egg against a cliff.
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The most striking aspect of the game was the level of desire on display. Quite simply, City looked like they wanted it more. "We were looking forward to this fixture," said Kompany after the game. You could tell. United, if anything, looked confused and bewildered. On several occasions in the first half, United tried to play the ball out of defence too casually and invited trouble. Their attitude did not seem to be one of focus and concentration. It looked careless.
There were too many passengers on the United team. Nobody was happy to see Ashley Young's name on the team sheet and he responded to his manager's faith by delivering an underwhelming performance. He lasted only five minutes of the second half.
Rio Ferdinand has been a great defender, but this was the first time he had started six consecutive games for several years. He just isn't up to it anymore and has been suspect all season. He was caught dozing for City's second goal and was rounded on more than one occasion.
Carrick and Fellaini were bamboozled in the middle of the park, and Antonio Valencia found himself trapped out wide every time the ball broke to him. The only United players to distinguish themselves were Wayne Rooney and Nemanja Vidic. Rooney was often found dropping back to his own 18-yard line in search of the ball. His late free kick was stupendous, Gascoigne-esque. He couldn't muster even the faintest hint of a smile.
Manchester United did not lose this match because of bad luck, but they were unlucky, too. Essentially, they were undone by a sublime Aguero strike and six crazy minutes around halftime. They also hit the post and Rooney missed one or two chances he might have buried on another day. Robin van Persie's injury obviously didn't help.
As the dust settles, the reasons for defeat are the following: the team selection was off, as Shinji Kagawa and Nani need to be higher in the pecking order than Young; the team was lacking in motivation and drive, as City's superior desire was clearly evident; and too many United players had poor days.
And finally, Pellegrini outfoxed Moyes in the tactical department. City's team were deployed in a fashion that nullified United's strengths and gave their attacking players the opportunity to flourish. You could argue that they won this match in the transfer window, such was their midfield dominance.
All these factors -- the team selection, player motivation and tactics -- all fall at the door of the manager. Welcome to Manchester, David Moyes -- this is as tough a learning experience as you are going to get. A victory over Liverpool on Tuesday is the minimum requirement to recover from this. United are hurting.