The Illustrated Manchester Derby: City 6 – 1 United like you’ve never seen
Every dog has his day, they say. Nothing gold can stay, they say. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, they say, and Summer’s lease hath all too short a date, they indicate. I just dropped some straight-up poetry on your sorry asses to prepare you for what’s coming. Are you ready? Of course not, but I don’t care.
We learned in school that Newton’s Third Law of Motion dictates an equal and opposite reaction accompany every action. In the immortal words Fish Merlin sang to us when we were children, “That’s what makes the world go round.”
So, yeah. 6-1, ouch. No doubt United fans have been on the receiving end of a fair bit of taunting this past week. What more can one man wearing an oversized mustache made of construction paper say about it? The scoreline is the bottom line, and not much more is required to evoke the pain and misery those millions felt last week, silenced at home by the noisy neighbors in a landmark defeat to rival 1989’s 5-1 or Denis Law’s backheel relegator of 1974.
However, this is a football writing site, which makes our occupation kin to that of the historian, or coroner. Such a rare and violent death necessitates an autopsy. Thusly do we begin our report:
It’s known to all that City are on the ups, climbing into the sky on a magic beanstalk of oil money and stealing golden eggs galore from the local geese. Like a footballing Legion of Doom its collection of mercenary superstars have been pummeling the league’s weaker teams (and Tottenham also), working their way up to battle the real giants. The killers in sky blue have struggled through the early games of their first ever Champions League campaign but their group is easily the toughest of this year’s competition so that’s not entirely unsurprising.
After a humiliating defeat to their crosstown rivals in the Community Shield, City were no doubt dreading their first competitive encounter with the Red Devils. However, sitting at the top of the table two points ahead and having won their midweek Champions League tie against Villarreal with a breathtaking last-gasp goal at the death (lung-themed wordplay ftw), Mancini and Co. came into this game with an air of excitement and optimism. The Italian manager’s choice to field the unpredictable attacker Mario Balotelli and leave out midfield destroyer Nigel de Jong reflected this ascendant confidence.
Old Trafford’s occupants felt anemic by comparison. For the past month—since young midfielder Tom Cleverley injured his foot against Bolton in September, really—United have not been playing to the standard set by their explosive start to the season. While Anderson had formed a superb partnership with Cleverley characterized by quick passing, positional fluidity, and dynamic movement, the Brazilian has almost no chemistry whatsoever with perpetually ill Scotsman Darren Fletcher. As a result their central midfield has been creatively barren, with little inspiration in attack and difficulty controlling games. The week prior Ferguson had clearly punted against Liverpool, fielding a weak lineup and resting key players in anticipation of both their midweek Champions League match and the upcoming derby. A lucky draw against a limp Liverpool and a difficult win by dubious penalties in midweek meant Manchester’s historically dominant team probably went into the derby feeling anxious and under pressure.
The game started cautiously, with United getting most of the possession but not creating much danger. It went on like this for a while until the untouchable David Silva livened things up with an excellent ziggy-zaggy twisty-turny run through about four players in United’s box.
His teammates squandered the chance though, and his good work went to nothing.
Well, almost nothing. The crowd went fairly quiet after that, and City could smell blood. Twentyish minutes in, the most entertaining man in football slotted the ball into the bottom corner of David de Gea’s net and made goal celebration history.
The goal energized City and they took full control of the game from United, who’d never convincingly had it to begin with. Things looked dire for the home side.
In pre-match buildup the commentators had hyped up the contest between Nani vs Clichy as a potentially decisive locus but the way the game played out, particularly in the first half, it seemed more like Nani vs Silva, with the little Spaniard tracking all the way back to his own box and consistently humiliating his fellow Iberian for his feeble attempts to get past him.
I seriously cannot gush enough about Silva. He might be the best player in England right now. He’s definitely top 5, alongside the constantly taken for granted Wayne Rooney and one-man team Robin van Persie. He’s also definitely in the top 5 coolest players in England, peer to United’s own Dimitar Berbatov and Patrice Evra, Swansea’s Michel “#supervorm” Vorm, and Tottenham’s Benoît Assou-Ekotto.
Hey, speaking of Dimitar Berbatov, everyone’s favorite criminally unused substitute was again sitting on the bench, and looked on at the grim proceedings with a frown and puffy lower lip.
Half time came, and less than a minute after coming back Mario Balotelli got around Johnny Evans, who panicked, hauling the Italian to the ground and earning himself a red card.
Whatever Fergie said to his team at half-time, as well as his game plan for the second period, was effectively RUINED. Way to go dude. Way. To. Go.
Club captain Nemanja Vidic shared everyone’s disdain for the young centerback. Watching from the stands (he didn’t even make the bench despite having completely recovered from his injury—that’s what the news said anyway), the Serbian looked like he was going to murder poor little Johnny, or anyone in his path. So I guess I mean he looked like he always looks.
After the red United seemed invigorated rather than despondent, and the crowd reacted in kind, cheering every time they had the ball.
That didn’t matter though. In the 60th minute Balotelli scored again. It came from some great link-up play between James Milner and David Silva. Yeah that’s right, David Silva again.
That guy. He’s on fire. Love him.
Fergie had waited on making a substitution in the wake of the red card, no doubt encouraged by his team’s positive reaction. But as soon as the second goal went in Chicharito and Phil Jones were on the field in place of Nani and Anderson. Phil Jones played at right back, Chris Smalling moved to the center, and Rooney dropped back into midfield alongside Darren Fletcher with Chicharito helping Danny Welbeck out up front.
The substitutions did no good though. When the 70th minute came around, City ripped the ten-man United a new one in a gorgeous passage of play that culminated with an easy tap-in for Aguero. It was so pretty I drew you a chart.
Balotelli was again a key man, his backheeled flick to James Milner the creative spark that threw Fergie’s boys completely off. Mancini rewarded him with a substitution, bringing on Edin Dzeko and ruining Super Mario’s chance to score a hat trick at Old Trafford in the Manchester Derby. Mancini’s continued faith in Balotelli is one of the few things I like about him but this was just evil.
A couple minutes later Aguero came off as well, with Samir Nasri taking his place. Dzeko quickly got a great opportunity to score but David de Gea made an excellent foot save with his trailing leg. David de Gea’s actually a terrific goalkeeper, who could have guessed? After all he only came from tiny provincial backwater/Europa League winner Atlético Madrid.
By now United were flailing. It was pretty bad. At one point Rio Ferdinand cleared the ball but only managed to kick it directly into Rooney’s face, the poor bastard. Hey wait a second Rio Ferdinand was playing???? LOLOLOLOL I hadn’t noticed.
At 80 minutes Darren Fletcher scored against the run of play, Chicharito providing an absolutely perfect one-touch assist. He CAN do more than just score goals, yall.
The goal didn’t energize United like you’d expect. They were still sluggish and tired, they looked beaten. Chris Smalling could have scored a header from a corner kick but it went over, and with it went United’s only good chance in the game other than the goal.
In the 89th minute, Dzeko scored a goal with his knee. Only a minute later David Silva got a goal for himself, nutmegging poor de Gea. I started to feel sad for United. A regular defeat is one thing, but this was now officially a rout.
In a final indignity for the men in red, Dzeko scored again in the 93rd minute, essentially the last play of the game. The goal was all about David Silva’s magnificent assist though, a long crossfield pass into wide open space ripe for the Bosnian to run into. It actually looked quite similar to United’s winning goal in the Community Shield.
So the final whistle blew, and the mighty Manchester United filed down the tunnel heads hung low. A humbled Sir Alex Ferguson shook hands with professional assclown Roberto Mancini. The stadium was half empty, the fans having scurried out in disappointment and shame.