|photo by trekkyandy||via PhotoRee|
Well, there's no prettying up that one. It was ugly, yes. It was brutal, true. Worst of all, it was humiliating to lose 6-1, AT HOME, to our most despised cross-town rivals and the pretender to our once and future throne. Yes, Sunday, October 23rd was a momentous day in the City of Manchester, a day which turned out just slightly different than the way the Red three quarters of the city envisioned before they set out for Old Trafford yesterday.
But the loss, which puts Manchester City five points clear at the top, and a whopping ten goals ahead on goal differential, and leaves United searching for answers from a distant and hurting second place position, was notable for much more than it's final score. Yes, the loss was much more notable for the following elements:
James Milner was Easily the the Man of the Match. Yes, I know the cameras will all have focussed on the rocket-fueled Mario Balotelli and his "Why Always Me?" Shirt? (Hint: it's because you're a marvelously talented jackass, Mario), and you could also easily make a legitimate claim for David Silva, he of the perfectly-weighted through ball, the puller of all the the right strings, who runs City's multi-geared offense with Xavi-like efficiency, but for me at least, City's win began and ended with Milner. I've slagged him off before, to be fair, but today the Englishman was the difference in the two sides when the game was on the line.
And Don't Forget it was on the Line Very Early in the Second Half. Although United looked toothless for much of the first half, the Reds dominated possession, and were just beginning to eke out some opportunities as the first half drew to a close -- but Jonny Evan's sending off changed all that, turning a difficult task into a highly unlikely proposition. James Milner's hustle, consistent positional awareness, and pinpoint accurate crossing led to both of City's first two scores, and the Englishman only narrowly missed a third assist when Kun Aguero couldn't re-direct his cross behind De Gea. Milner was all over the pitch today, and played with real purpose and passion -- something severely lacking from the home side today
That One was Coming for Awhile. The size of the final score differential will surprise some, but as we noted last week this United squad has been struggling offensively for a couple of games now, and has been leaky at the back - conceding more shots on goal than any other side -- for even longer. The goals early in the season likely masked some severe defensive deficiencies, but it's hard to be surprised we lost today after the poor performances the team has mailed in recently against Basel, Norwich and Otellul Gulati.
Stand up and Take Your Medicine. After dishing it out, you better be able to take it. We've had plenty of late minute winners in this series over the last several seasons, and you could argue that this loss to City was overdue by some good measure. You can't call yourself a true Red if you can't take the mockery, pointed criticism and griping over the next few days and weeks; we've been dishing it out for years, and now it's our turn to finally take some. I hope it won't last for long, and I'm under no illusion the season is over, or "the balance of power has shifted.". City was the better team today. Full stop, end of story, and let their fans celebrate. After all, they don't get to do it nearly as often as we do.
Capitulation Sucks. Three goals conceded after the 89th minute says a lot -- in fact, it says that the players were already in the locker room long before the final whistle blew. Sure, United could have gone defensive and tried to limit the final damage, but instead its players -- or most of them, in any event -- chose to pack it in early -- something no United team of any time and place should be associated with. You had to feel for David De Gea yesteday -- his double fisted pounding of the ground after the fifth City goal said he still had a fair bit of passion left -- but that's a lot more than you can say for the other men on the pitch with him, especially those who were supposed to be playing defense.
Slagging Off Our Own Players is Not the Answer. Sure, it may make you feel better, but if that's how you pump yourself up, you are a rather small, useless person, indeed. Case in point: Jonny Evans. He's not 'shit,' and doesn't 'need to be traded.' He's not 'useless,' he's just a young defender who's still learning the game and is better than about 80% of the guys that play the game for other teams in the same League. Yeah, he's no Nemanja Vidic, but that's not an embarassment: no one else is, either.
The constant belittling of our squad players has gone too far. It's a team, people. Not everyone can be a starter, but they all have roles to play. Sometimes injury and circumstances conspire against the team and require it to play a less-than-ideal starting 11 in big games. Such was the case with Jonny today, and one can only hope he learned some lessons out there, and will grow from the experience.
First Place in Late October Don't Count for Much. One game does not make a season: Sure City won the game on Sunday, and sure, it was a blowout. But the season didn't end, and City didn't win a trophy.
I saw some people tweeting today that City has the title wrapped up, but in my opinion that view is far from secure -- and will be proved baseless by May. I said pre-season I expected City to Be United's main challengers for the title. I also said that Kun Aguero was pretty damn good, and I thought he might be a key pickup by the Citizens when it happened. But there's lots of games still to be played, especially those pressure packed away trips to teams like Everton, Fulham, and Stoke when it's late in the game and you just have to pick up a point or three -- and let's see how City deals with those before we hand them the trophy.
I'll leave you with a positive note: United have already played Chelsea, Spurs, City, and Arsenal (all of their top challengers from the last campaign) this season, and most of the rest of United's games to date have been played against teams in the top half of the League -- and we are still closer to first place than we were a year ago at his time. I'll take my chances from here on out, and in Fergie I trust.
This is farlieonfootie on October 24.