Thank you very much to Manchester City for hammering the daylights out of us at Old Trafford. Not since the humiliation we took at the hands of Liverpool in 2009 did we get to suffer an embarrassment of this magnitude on our home ground which we proudly call the Theater of Dreams. There have been times when Old Trafford has seen some nightmares but it doesn’t come any bigger than what we witnessed at Old Trafford last Sunday. It surpasses the beating we took from the hands of another of our arch-rivals and perhaps until today, the rival that historically we hate more and regard as our closest and bitterest rival, Liverpool.
Our noisy neighbours were really noisy today in OUR home ground and it’s a real shame that our fans were silenced immediately after the first goal went against us, against the run of play. I am very upset and angry with the Manchester United fans who were kept quiet so quickly and so easily after the first goal United conceded despite of having more of the play up until then. Instead of going quiet so fast, we should have got behind the team louder than before and really created a din to silence the cheers of the Manchester City fans but that didn’t happen and at times I wished Sir Alex would just step out of his dug out and act as a cheerleader to get the crowd going again. I guess this is the prawn sandwich brigade that Roy Keane was talking about.
Post-Liverpool, I had wrote about how we could be the ones feeling blue if our performances did not improve quickly. The warning signs were already there. We somehow escaped from being held to a draw or even losing to Norwich City at Old Trafford and before that we had a game against Stoke City away that we were rocky. Granted that the Britannia Stadium is never an easy place to go to for any team but we have normally handled the threat pretty comfortably but not this season. After Norwich, we had Liverpool away and we were thankful that we escaped with a point even though we scored late to equalise and should have been in the ascendancy. As I have noted, our performances post trashing Bolton 5-0 at Reebok Stadium has slowly but surely dipped and today the result matched it. Do not forget that we escaped with a draw against FC Basle at home in the Champions League too and even against Otelul Galati, we weren’t convincing enough.
We got hammered 6-1 but were we really that bad? I felt we started quite well and were playing better than we were doing in recent weeks, all that was needed was to up the ante a few notches. We surely would have scored and had Manchester City on the hooks but that didn’t happen. They scored instead and we never responded. NEVER responded. When was the last time, we failed to respond at going behind at home, at Old Trafford? Anyone got an answer to that question? I was critical of the fans but to be fair, the players got to play their part in trying to raise their game for the fans to respond on cue with a raise in their collective volume.
United went into the break 1-0 down but you would expect United to come back in the second half with more urgency and guns blazing but within 63 seconds, Jonny Evans got sent off for a professional foul and United were down to 10 men which gave us a mountain to climb and even then you would expect United to still be able to come back and at the very least nick a win or squeeze a draw but City took the lead instead and extended it further before Fletcher’s sublime goal, which has to be the best of the game by far. At 1-3 down with 9 minutes left and injury time still to be added, you would expect United to press on with greater urgency to get a second, maybe a third and dare we dream a fourth? But no, we responded for a minute or two and gave up. We didn’t apply enough pressure on Manchester City’s defence and instead of keeping the ball in their half and passing it about incisively and moving about with urgency and speed, we laboured and allowed gaps for the next 3 goals.
Rio Ferdinand looked off pace and perhaps all those niggling injuries and age are taking a toll on him already. He wouldn’t like being made to look bad but he looked very sluggish. Why was Evans playing instead of Nemanja Vidic in such a crucial game? Only heaven knows. Perhaps a touch of over confidence by Sir Alex after a good, decent performance at Anfield by Evans? He might have played that game very well but after Vidic’s appearance against Otelul in the Champions League, we expected the captain to be back. It’s fair to say that Ferguson took a risk by playing Evans after a good performance against Liverpool but with evidence from recent past, we would know that Evans is prone to making mistakes and slip-ups and it happened again. That decision backfired. Everywhere we looked, we saw below-par, sub standard, poor performances except for Ashley Young, Chris Smalling and the endeavour of Wayne Rooney who showed the game and result really mattered to him.
How would Sir Alex, Manchester United and the club respond from this? It is not easy but I am confident that there would be a positive response. From past experience, we know that United will bounce back stronger from this but what options does Sir Alex have in terms of selection? We have a Carling Cup match away to Aldershot on Tuesday before an away game against Everton on Saturday which is a tough and hostile place to go to. As I have mentioned, it will wake the players up from the slumber and from the over-confidence of a scintillating start to the season. The constant chopping and changing have had an effect on the team’s performance and rhythm and interestingly, the downturn in performances started with the injury of Tom Cleverly and his absence from centre midfield. Since then, United have struggled to hold their ground in centre midfield. In defence, the injuries have taken a toll as the manager has been forced to constantly change his backline but he can now be able to play with a settled back four which would be key for defensive stability as United have been allowing far too may gaps for the opposition to exploit and create chances.
It might take some games for United to recover from this shock but certainly all United fans would be hoping to see an immediate response. We would like to see us go on a long winning or at least unbeaten run now, making Old Trafford a fortress again and most importantly to retain the Premier League and/or add the Champions League to the list. Do also remember that we have been trashed before; Newcastle and Southampton in 1996, Chelsea in 1999 and Liverpool in 2009 and emerged as champions at the season’s end. There is still a long way to go and this is only one game with 29 more to come. This is a league not a knockout cup competition where a one-off game has more significance but no doubt this hammering would have some effect on the players and the manager. This defeat will hurt and cut deep and we can’t wait to play City away now to avenge our humiliation. United will surely sit back and gather their thoughts on what went wrong but we don’t have much time as we have a Carling Cup match before an away game to Everton but they owe it to us, the fans and to themselves to restore the pride of Manchester United.