Browbeaten United manager David Moyes, in a stuttering, downbeat press conference dotted with "sort ofs" and "mibees", managed to lever this into his summary of what he had witnessed. "Ive got to say Wayne Rooney was...was....could have arguably been the best player on the pitch today....". This is of course to neglect to consider the claims of Sergio Aguero, of a rampant Yaya Touré, of Samir Nasri and, most certainly, of captain colossus Vincent Kompany. It is even to do some kind of injustice to Aleksander Kolarov and Jesus Navas. Rooney would have struggled to get into the team of the match, never mind man of the match decisions. What Moyes is basing this mistaken impression on, is the fact that Rooney was the only United player to attempt to compete. Look at the quote again. Look at the actual order the words came out. Moyes didn't believe it either.That's the problem with saying ridiculous things in public. You have to sound convinced yourself first.
United's game plan was to take an early grip, according to Moyes. How do a group of players with that tactic hammered into them, succeed only in giving territory to the opposition so completely that the only meaningful phases of possession United had were spent going sideways in midfield or trying to rid the pressure further back. Carrick, lost in the deluge, and Fellaini, going sideways, then backwards then sideways again, were nowhere to be seen when the giant holes needed plugging. Rooney - United's best derby performer as usual -was still struggling to gain proper control of the delightful head garment that he was wearing. It made him look a little like a human dodgems car. Every time he was manfully tackled, the thing flipped off like an elastic band on an elephant. Maybe this is why United lost.
|Moyes consults Volume 1 of his Big Book of Tactics|
United surged forward, more out of instinct than sense. Any footballer will tell you, once you have taken the foot off the accelerator and given the initiative to your opponents, it is almost impossible to crank yourself back into the flow and rage of what went earlier.
"All managers have bad days and results and I'm no different". No kidding, David! This out of the tight-lipped mouth of Moyes, a man doing an impression of a rabbit in the headlights of a jack-knifing milk lorry. This performance from United asks deep and troubling questions of United and their manager's ability to do the job expected of Old Trafford bosses. The summer spending was a failure. United's fanfare signing was a sideways-moving mess yesterday. Fellaini and Carrick were overrun completely, were left hanging in no-man's land by Valencia, "Possibly if-Only Man of the Match" Rooney and Welbeck and had no answers to the power and bite and corruscating drive of Fernandinho and Yaya Touré, the control and speed of thought of Navas and Nasri. If more proof is needed that midfield was where the decisive power battle was won, look at Richard Jolly's analysis for ESPN here, but don't touch Nasri's heat map until it has cooled down a little.
Did anybody notice that the little magician David Silva wasn't playing? The man who makes City tick. The best midfielder in the squad. No, nobody even mentioned him, so good was the work put in by Nasri in particular. Van Persie's absence was mentioned by all and sundry, however. But this was not about Van Persie. United's front two have been strong enough in the past to bring home the bacon. They are both England internationals of some repute, although that is a debatable gong to hang around your neck these days.
Interestingly, David Moyes, in a previous life as manager of an Everton squad of hard-working and honest runners, managed year in year out to put a humongous spanner in the works every single time he lined his side up against City. This was Moyes, the man to motivate ordinary folk to extraordinary efforts. Now he is in charge of some of English football's top talent, does he have the wherewithal to make it function to the best of its ability? United have now played City and Chelsea and also their most important rivals (and I'm beginning to believe this again) Liverpool and have gleaned one big fat juicy point. Not nearly good enough.Another clash with Liverpool arrives just when Moyes would really prefer it didn't this Tuesday and it will be a brown trouser evening for the Scotsman. Lose this and his team faces West Brom at the weekend, a side that has seen off four managers, all sacked after defeats against the Baggies in the last two years.....
Much has been said about Ferguson's hole being a hard one to fill. Where was I? Ah yes, in some respects Moyes has already tellingly shown this to be the case. On Sunday at the Etihad, he shuffled almost apologetically up to the 4th official and was seen to be mouthing gently "no way, that's just shocking..." and shaking his head gently from side to side. Compare this with the volcanic Ferguson rampaging up to the referee effing and blinding with sparks emitting from his ears. "You'll nae ref a match again," he would be bellowing into the hapless man's earpiece, "You're way too fucking fat and you'll nae come any where fucking near us again, I'll see to that....". Ryan Giggs may have given it a try at half time in the tunnel, with his "man up" speech to Howard Webb, but even Giggs, brought up on Ferguson's magic ways for three hundred long years, does not hold a candle to the old egg poacher himself. These days things just aren't the same. Even Oldham's most famous man boy Jinja Nuttus was left out of the Praetorian Guard this time.
The fruitiest and best titbits of the lot were left to us on Monday morning, where The Mail dusted down its usual "how can we find an angle to hammer City" puff piece. Here was another man preparing himself to say something ridiculous in public. Step forward, Neil Ashton to pull out the gem that City had finally killed off English football (yes, that ancient chestnut, so well baked by now it is harder than the hate stare Ryan Giggs reserved for the 4th official at half time), by starting the Manchester Derby with only one Englishman in the side. Having ruined football single-handed by buying way too many good players. Having burned down football and ransacked fair play, City have now ruined the national team too, just eight short years after Arsenal turned out an all-foreign starting eleven and a massive sixteen years since Chelsea managed the very same feat. But let not that get in the way of today's mots justes in The Mail, the paper which represents the thoughts of millions.
|The hole in United's defence looks vaguely familiar|
Yaya Touré. Four goals from midfield already, charging around like an elephant on heat. the Beast of Bondoukou is back in title-.winning form. How is this achieved? Simple really. Plant an athletic, incisive, deceptively alert little whippet behind him and let him off his lead. Fernandinho, not the cheapest of summer purchases, is another astutely placed cog in this increasingly well-oiled machine.
Finally, as Rio Ferdinand did a passable impression of a river running dry and Vidic came up short in his battle to contain the fulminating power of Negredo and Aguero, spare a thought for captain Vincent Kompany, looking more and more like one of the great sweepers of football history with every passing day. He cost the club that ruined football 24 million pounds less than the dust-spattered and visibly creaking Ferdinand. Ruinous stuff.