The handover was never going to be velvet. Despite the apparent smoothness of the transition from Sir Alex Ferguson to David Moyes it was delusional to expect Manchester United’s new manager immediately to fill the void left by his canny and charismatic predecessor.
For all the talk of United being a brilliantly constructed machine that would go on clearing everything in its path regardless of who was steering, Moyes has woken in another world. There remains every chance of him fulfilling the hopes invested in him by Ferguson, who effectively nominated his own successor. But only now do we see the scale of the leap he has taken from overachieving Everton manager to helmsman at Britain’s most successful club.
Many of the obstacles facing Moyes were not of his making. The first is that Ferguson’s departure has caused an intensity drop in this Manchester United squad. This 4-1 thrashing at the home of the noisy neighbours exposed not only a gulf in class but a lack of diligence among players who no longer have to go around fearing Ferguson’s wrath.
Specifically, Manchester City strolled through United’s ranks to run up a 4-0 lead inside 50 minutes. City were slick and powerful, authoritative and ambitious. Their front players were rampant and their defending fierce. All the while, Antonio Valencia jogged back to defensive positions and let City’s attackers work the ball around him. On the other side, United’s left, Ashley Young was abject. Marouane Fellaini, who was much too casual and moved too slowly when danger loomed, was given a nasty shock that not even Merseyside derbies prepared him for back in his Everton days.
Behind a scrambled midfield and forward pack, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand were taken apart by Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Samir Nasri, while Yaya Toure and Fernandinho formed a mighty central midfield block. The new City announced themselves with thrilling verve and power while Wayne Rooney stood up to the cross-town enemy almost alone. Rooney’s performance was a thing of wonder, embellished with a sumptuous free kick that was greeted with an eerie silence. It emphasised his own great jump from outcast to indispensable.
With Robin van Persie injured and watching from the stands, United looked outgunned on the team-sheet; and so it proved as Young donated the ball to opponents, Danny Welbeck struggled to organise his feet and Fellaini and Michael Carrick were overrun. United’s centre-backs cannot shoulder all the blame for the lack of midfield protection in a side who have now lost to City and Liverpool and drawn tamely with Chelsea. Only the emphatic Champions League win over Bayer Leverkusen and a stylish win at Swansea can be set against these disappointing shows against top opposition.Share on Facebook