Halloween came early to Old Trafford
City fans would like nothing more than Sunday’s humiliation of Utd to signal a shift in the balance of power. Pundits are already debating its merits. 6-1 is a historic statement and the margin could have been even larger if Edin Dzeko had been on target in his first few attempts. City showed the destruction they’re capable of when each player plays to the best of their ability.
Roberto Mancini also showed shrewdness starting Gareth Barry and James Milner with their industry and indefatigability supplementing the flair and creativity of David Silva, Mario Balotelli, and Kun Aguero. It was quite remarkable to see the “settled” look to this side as if they’d been playing together for years.
What was even more evident right from the outset was Sir Alex’s unpreparedness for this match and a distrust in his personnel. At this point Phil Jones may give up a few years in age to Jonny Evans but in terms of maturity he’s streets ahead. Evans sending off was a pivotal moment as the game went on and Utd committed more men up front in desperation leaving them exposed to City running up the score. In this tactic, Utd seem to have bought into the comeback phenomenon previously seen to yield some remarkable results. Fletcher’s goal spurred them into overdrive but City’s defense proved to be far too resolute and ready for the counterattack. The decision to drop anchor seems to have been completely written off in Sir Alex’s options.
Here one has to compare the defenses which is where most of the difference seem to lie. Utd have a transitional look in defense as Rio Ferdinand sinks into the twilight of his career, Nemanja Vidic contends with injuries, Patrice Evra seems to put more stock in controversy than with performances, and Chris Smalling is the reluctant choice at right back. As the last line, David De Gea, the newly minted custodian compounds this vulnerability. In contrast, City’s defense is peaking. Micah Richards seems to have sorted out his attitude and is fulfilling his talent after a couple of seasons in the wilderness.
Utd’s justifiable pride in their achievements having pushed back Chelsea, another money rich club into playing catch up, matching Arsenal in the talent department, and eclipsing Liverpool as the most storied English club might slow them down into recognizing the danger of their upstart neighbours. But this is the time for pragmatism and not for banners touting their winning historicity. A coming to terms is as needed as tactical considerations and the best personnel on the pitch. For someone with a reputation of making adroit personnel changes, the Utd manager was guilty of inertia and safe choices, suggesting a sense of denial. Danny Welbeck’s direct approach against a very physical defense proved unfruitful when a more elusive presence might have been more effective which is why the late introduction of Javier Hernandez was mystifying to behold.
Changes will be made. It must involve drawing up a blueprint to beat City to add to the one’s that go with Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool. There is no club that rises to the challenge as well as Utd have in the past and the return encounter at the Eastlands will be fought on more equitable terms. Unlike Arsenal under Wenger who have been stuck in orthodoxy for some time, Utd have shown a willingness to avoid ideological pitfalls. To talk of a shift of balance in power is premature and a glib way of dismissing the other side’s capability of giving a fitting rebuttal. Having said that, who feels that David Silva will better Cesc Fabregas and Ryan Giggs as arguably the best midfielder on English soil? He was 5′ 7″ of unstoppable sublimeness.