There was an air of optimism ahead of the 169th Manchester derby from the Red half of Manchester, and why not, having put on a great display en-route to picking up three points at Anfield, and blowing Spurs away picking up three points in the process. The recent resurgence in United’s fortunes has also given players such as Young, Fellaini, Jones and Smalling great confidence too.
Even before a ball had been kicked, the atmosphere in and around Old Trafford was fervent, with both sets of fans involved in very vocal exchanges. So when City went one nil up in the eighth minute through Sergio Aguero, most Blues would have expected their team to take a real strangle hold on the game.
Within twenty minutes of City opening the scoring, they found themselves 2-1 down, thanks to goals from the very impressive Ashley Young and Marouanne Fellaini. In keeping with the impressive turn around in fortunes for the two aforementioned United players, the Reds fortunes changed too. What impressed me most was how Ander Herrera reacted to his side going 1-0 down, he pressed, probed and instilled some urgency into United’s play, and combined well with his fellow countryman Juan Mata.
Just before half time City captain Vincent Kompany was extremely lucky not to be shown a red card for a dangerous tackle on Daley Blind, which referee Mark Clattenburg deemed only to be a yellow card following consultation with the linesman.
The second half began with Kompany being replaced by Eliquim Mangala, but United had not replaced their hunger or desire with anything less at half time. Mata, Herrera and Carrick – who was calmness personified throughout, combined well. On the left hand side Blind, Young and Fellaini linked up well. Wayne Rooney led the line well on his own up front, and it was he who put Juan Mata through on goal. The on rushing Joe Hart tried to make himself big, but Mata’s finish was exquisite, and United were now 3-1 up with less than twenty five minutes remaining.
Within seven minutes of Mata’s goal, Chris Smalling rose highest to send his header past the hapless Hart as United found themselves 4-1 up against the noisy neighbours. Michael Carrick left the field with a calf injury, but could not be replaced as United had used their allotted substitutions, and moments later Aguero pulled another back for City, scoring his 100th goal for them, an astonishing return from just 158 games for City.
In the end it was the Red half of Manchester that have the bragging rights, ending in the process a miserable run of four straight losses to their local rivals. It was only the third time United had scored four goals versus City in the Premier League, as they turned the lights off any small chance City had of retaining their crown. Remarkably, City have now last six out of their last eight games, as United now go four points ahead in the league.
Whilst City look like a disjointed and lacklustre side, United looked anything but. The transformation couldn’t be any more different, even David de Gea has become a figure less relied upon to get United out of jail, with the outfield players gaining confidence and showing great character in the process.
Quite the opposite, City looked to their powerhouse Yaya Toure who looked disinterested throughout, David Silva ran out of ideas of how to unlock the United defence (apart from the opening eight minutes or so), and the team in general had no cohesion.
Psychologically, Louis van Gaal has worked wonders with Young and Fellaini, and dare I say made a great choice in making Wayne Rooney his captain, someone who has sacrificed himself, as is expected, for the benefit of the team. Even the much maligned centre back pairing of Jones and Smalling looked comfortable yesterday, bringing the ball out of defence time and again.
How refreshing for the sounds of ‘You’re getting sacked in the morning’, not to be reverberating around Old Trafford calling for the head of a United manager, as was the case over a year ago with David Moyes in charge, instead it was aimed at Manuel Pellegrini whose time at City looks well and truly up.