Manchester City produced an impressive performance, which sees them win back-to-back league games at Old Trafford for the first time since December 1970/April 1972.
Sir Alex Ferguson made a few changes to his side that lost to Chelsea in last weeks FA Cup replay. Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Ashley Young and Rafael were called up into the starting line up, as United played in a 4-4-1-1.
Roberto Mancini made two changes to his side that defeated Newcastle last week. James Milner started out wide with Edin Dzeko dropping to the bench, while Matija Nastasic was cleared fit to partner in defence with captain Vincent Kompany. Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero wasn’t fit enough to start, but he was on the bench.
City dominated the match in terms of possession, as United sat back and looked to break on the counter. In a game that provided very few clear-cut chances, United’s approach, with their inability to make significant tactical system changes and substitutions led to City’s victory, along with Mancini outcoaching Ferguson, led to City’s victory.
The match started at an incredibly high tempo, with the ball going from end to end, in what was an open 10 minutes.
City took control once the tempo slowed down, as United approached the match in the same manner as they did against Chelsea. United sat back in two banks of four with Young and Welbeck playing narrow. United stood off, and only seemed to press City when they got near the edge of the box, while Rooney stayed close to Toure. It was strange that we didn’t see Cleverley play out wide tucked into the midfield, with Welbeck staying close to Toure, considering Welbeck’s great performance against Xabi Alonso in the Champions League. Carrick was dealt with in a fine manner, and he was forced to play several balls sideways or back to his defence. It’s been shown that with a bit of pressure Carrick fails to have an influence on matches, and Mancini’s plan to nullify the English midfielder in this match worked to great effect.
Fullbacks on both sides were significantly quiet offensively, because both managers played direct wingers (apart from Nasri), which restricted the fullbacks’ movement getting forward. City had Silva pressing Carrick, with Nasri and Barry supporting at times, while Nasri and Tevez helped press the centre back on the ball and the available fullback. With United inviting City’s pressure, and United unable to play out of the back, they struggled to muster up any real possession. Fergie’s men also failed to break on the counter when they won the ball, with Welbeck’s surging run their only legitimate opportunity, in which he failed to play a ball to the advancing Rooney.
City dominated the game in terms of possession, while United attempted to break on the counter as they’ve done against most top-sides this season. It was an ongoing pattern throughout the match, and both sides struggled, because they were unable to create legitimate goal scoring opportunities.
City attack down left/between the lines
Two main features of City’s dominance in the first half besides their pressing, was their play down the left hand side and the space they received in between the lines.
Silva was often drifting over to the left hand side, while Tevez found himself turning on Ferdinand in that area, opposed to Phil Jones, who in fairness had him self a decent game. Gareth Barry played higher up the pitch compared to Toure and he often sprayed balls to Nasri or Clichy on that left hand side.
With Welbeck tucked in, Clichy was able to pick up the ball unmarked, and we saw him drive forward once, only to see his shot go wide. City’s opening goal came from the left hand side, as Barry won the ball from Giggs and drove forward into the penalty area, and the play eventually ended with Milner’s deflected shot flying past David De Gea.
United fell to Chelsea a week ago by a slender scoreline of 1-0, in which they nullified the threat Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata possess in between the lines. Surprisingly, they were unable to do this today, and Silva, Nasri and Tevez worked well in the space provided. Tevez dropped into the space to receive the ball several times, and he linked play with Silva and the two wide men. Nasri often drifted into that space with the ball, while Silva also picked up the ball in that space and got into great areas in between Ferdinand and Rafael.
Ultimately, Yaya Toure found Sergio Aguero in that pocket of space in the second half, and the Argentine skipped past a few United defenders and scored the winner.
The two main areas in which Mancini’s men exploited led to their goals and United was unable to cope.
There weren’t many tactical alterations in the second half, but we did witness three goals. United pressed better, and improved in the second half, but failed to stop City from playing in between the lines and on the left side of the pitch.
Mancini introduced Aguero in place of Nasri and dropped Tevez behind him. It seemed like the perfect substitution at the time, because Aguero provides energy, great movement off the ball and he constantly makes runs in behind defenders. It’s always a luxury to have a world-class player of his stature on the bench, but the change gave City a new spark, and the Premier League’s best striker was the game changer.
Ferguson brought on Antonio Valencia for Welbeck and Javier Hernandez for Rooney, who had a poor outing, but the change to 4-4-2 had no affect on the match. Shinji Kagawa came on in injury time, but the match was already won. City’s final changes were made to secure the lead as they introduced Javi Garcia and Joleon Lescott.
United lose to City at Old Trafford for the second season in a row, in a convincing matter. Mancini’s men dominated possession and exploited areas on the pitch and United was unable to cope, as they failed to change their system. Mancini’s decision to bring on Aguero in the second half was the difference maker, and ultimately, he outcoached Fergie on the night.
Manchester United lose their second game in the span of seven days, and Fergie and his top players will have questions to ask themselves going forward. The Giggs-Carrick midfield pairing was woeful, while Rooney and Young both had disappointing nights. The personnel brought on, along with the timing of the substitutions were also poor. The title is all but won, but its games of this magnitude in where top players strive, and many United players failed to show up.
“This season we had some problems with players injured. We are not a team that can lose three or four players. We can’t lose Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany together. We are not so strong that we can lose three or four players like this.” –Roberto Mancini post-match
City may finish the season several points behind their cross-town rivals, but Mancini raises a valid point here. They’ve gone through the season missing these two key figures along with Aguero for lengthy periods, and it has had a massive affect on their league position. Nevertheless, Mancini has defeated Fergie once again, and has provided us a reason as to why he deserves to manage this team in the future.
1. Carlos Tevez
2. David Silva
3. James Milner