Premier League: Manchester City underline gulf in class as United succumb to Pep Guardiola's attacking riches

While Manchester City produced passages of football that were beautifully engineered, Manchester United tottered until they eventually crumbled. This was the pattern that City followed with elan, slowly asserting their dominance over their bitter rivals on Sunday night.

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates. Reuters

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring their second goal with teammates. Reuters

More than City’s 3-1 win on the night, it was the gulf in class between the two clubs that was exposed throughout the 90 minutes played at the Etihad. Not only did Pep Guardiola’s attacking riches allow City to apply that thrilling razor edge to this contest, but also thrash United in every department possible.

Yet again, it was a rudderless display from United. Even United manager Jose Mourinho wasn’t surprised by the lacklustre exhibition of his star-studded side as he had openly admitted that the 'noisy neighbours' were untouchable ahead of the clash.

That’s also because Mourinho had picked a team aiming for a draw. United’s starting lineup for the derby had certainly given City the encouragement to push United back from the outset.

Amidst the millions spent on the renovation of the club and a plethora of stars, City’s best investment has been spending cash on the signing of David Silva.

The Spanish wizard ticks all the boxes. City marauded through United’s midfield and exposed open spaces on the flanks with direct football, which left the opposition players bemused. By the time the clocked reached the 11th minute, City had completed 96 passes to United’s five and had hogged 91 percent of possession. Silva was central to this attacking football. The unrelenting precision being displayed is testament to Guardiola’s footballing brain.

United didn’t smell danger despite receiving hints from City’s front three and of course, Silva. But, City capitalised and Mourinho’s defence paid the price for inviting pressure from all corners. Silva started the move from the midfield with Raheem Sterling and managed to spank one past David de Gea.

Once again this season, United had fallen behind. Although this time, having barely touched the ball. Ouch! But unlike against Juventus and Bournemouth, they failed to muster enough courage to script another thrilling comeback in the first derby of the season at Etihad.

Mourinho’s obdurate approach had frustrated his own players who couldn’t take the ball ahead from the midfield. With Paul Pogba absent, Mourinho had little choice but to just hang it all and start with a midfield trio of Marouane Fellaini-Nemanja Matic-Ander Herrera to squeeze the game as hard as possible. It didn’t work and he probably won’t win matches with a sterile midfield.

Sunday was the ninth occasion on which United have allowed the opposition the first goals to their opponents in 17 matches this season. They start slowly and have been consistently giving impetus to the opposition

What’s next? A Sergio Aguero screamer 16 seconds into the restart.

Aguero is the gift that keeps on giving, especially against United. Another smart investment made by City eight years ago. The Argentine blasted home his eighth goal, equalling the record for scoring the most goals in the Manchester derby with Wayne Rooney (8). Another area where City showed their gulf in the class by catching United’s defence off guard with a quick break, spraying passes left, right and center.

Bernardo, the other Silva, posed a threat to Victor Lindelof, while Riyad Mahrez got the better of Luke Shaw on the right flank as the attacking duo kept on threading through balls for Aguero and Sterling. It was only after Aguero had punished Jesse Lingard’s weak turnover of possession that United broke out of their shackles to showcase their attacking prowess. They did play well in intervals. Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial’s burst of pace caused problems to the City defence, but there was nothing productive to show for it.

United did manage to pull one back, deservedly, through Martial from the spot. But City always seemed likely to score a third. The move took 44 passes and involved an exhausted defensive mistake right at the end by Nemanja Matic’s tired legs, allowing Ilkay Gundogan to score.

Off the field, City had been under scrutiny after the latest Football Leaks revelations that caused much furore and posed questions about how their rise to the top has been funded by their Abu Dhabi-based owners. But on the pitch, their incredible football gave United a reality check: the blue half of Manchester now reigns supreme.

To sum up the derby, United had one shot on target. From the penalty. This stat tells the tale of the sorry decline of their once-dominant attack.

The constant talk surrounding United that they need new additions is of no use. The football is un-Manchester United. And the approach? Bizarre.

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Updated Date: Nov 12, 2018 16:17:24 IST

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