Manchester City thrashed Manchester United 4-1 at the Etihad Stadium on derby day.
After just five minutes at the Etihad, Manchester United proved a hypothesis that Raphael Varane would be a greater loss to the club than Cristiano Ronaldo.
In spite of playing well in the first half, United was undone far too easy for the opening goal. On the inside right channel, Bernardo connected up with Joao Cancelo and Jack Grealish, causing United’s troubles, but there didn’t appear to be much threat.
In the end, though, Victor Lindelof had a different opinion and rushed to the aid of those in need. Just Harry Maguire and Alex Telles were left to deal with Kevin de Bruyne, who took advantage of the void left behind by Bernardo’s departure off the field.
As a result of this blunder, it appears that Varane’s defensive communication with the Frenchman has improved significantly this season.
When it came to the second goal, Lindelof just had a split-second to make his decision, but he committed himself to closing down Phil Foden, making it much too easy for the City midfielder to lift the ball over him and take another of United’s central defenders out of the game.
That back four didn’t look especially strong, but Maguire was the most heavily criticised player on social media, and he had a horrible performance.
Losses to Manchester City and Watford were followed by defeats at home to Liverpool, where they were outscored 5-0. Their lives would be utterly devoid of him.
Grealish vs Sancho
To be honest, it was a surprise to see Jack Grealish start ahead of Raheem Sterling on Sunday at the Etihad, and while Grealish had a good game for Chelsea, it was Jadon Sancho who emerged victorious on his own in their respective duel.
Since moving to Manchester City for £100million, Grealish has had a relatively easy time of it. There hasn’t been as much attention given to him since his move to Old Trafford and subsequent performance at the same level.
Sancho has had to get used to the glare this season, and he’s taken some time to display his finest form, but there’s no doubt that his current level of performances are near to the level that earned him his £73million transfer fee..
During the derby, he was a constant threat for United on the left and was jeered whenever he had possession. As a result, Sancho was determined to celebrate his goal against his previous team, and he did not disappoint.
In Sancho’s opinion, United’s finest offensive outlet at the moment, and this was another step ahead in his United career for the young England international. I think he’s better than Grealish right now.
Starting points that are in opposition to one another
It has been difficult for Manchester United to maintain a performance and stick to a game plan for 90 minutes under manager Ralf Rangnick, but at the Etihad they were able to open both halves with two quite different approaches.
It was evident from the start that they were going to be aggressive in the first half. Players such as Paul Pogba and Sancho were positioned high up the pitch and closed the ball down with ferocity. Scott McTominay was also involved.
However, even though they conceded early, Manchester United were unquestionably the stronger team in the first 10 minutes and deserved to square the scores. In the second half, they desperately needed a swift start, and it was nowhere to be found.
The first ten minutes of the second half flew by in a whirlwind of Manchester United errors and missed opportunities. With errant passes, McTominay put Maguire and Wan-Bissaka in danger. Wan-Bissaka handed the ball to Bernardo six yards from goal, and Foden then somehow forced him to give it up.
Simple, basic blunders cost United momentum in the first few minutes of the second half.
Substitutes for the midfield
When Rangnick went to his bench in the second half, it was almost always going to be Pogba who was replaced by Jesse Lingard, but it probably says a lot that Fernandes stayed on for the full 90 minutes despite making very little contribution.
At one point, referee Michael Oliver was forced to talk with Fernandes about his continuous complaints and playacting, and this was typical of the Portuguese when things aren’t going United’s way.
When things grew worse the more he tried, and when things got worse the more he tried, the less they worked out for him. Despite the fact that Pogba is expected to leave Manchester United at the end of the season, he provided the assist for Sancho’s goal and may have been a better option for United than Fernandes, who was losing his calm as the game progressed.
Battles between the top four contenders.
Is Manchester United’s best shot at a top-four finish this season over? Based on this performance, you have to wonder.
Many supporters have pointed out that the team has only lost once in 13 Premier Division games under manager Markus Rangnick, but the truth is that they’ve lost six of those games, which is about as ordinary as one could hope for in this league.
United’s job just got a whole lot more difficult, and any optimism that they would step up their game for games like this at the Etihad was dashed, particularly in the second half.
Arsenal, who have three games left, are now a point ahead of United. United must play Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea in their final ten games. Even if the team’s performance improves considerably, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to finish fourth.