Etihad STADIUM, MANCHESTER — There was a sense of sanguinity among the travelling Manchester United suckers ahead of Sunday's derby. Four straight Premier League wins and yearly prizes for director Erik ten Hag and forward Marcus Rashford will do that to you. In the end, any real belief the Red Devils would trouble the titleholders on home turf lasted about as long as Diogo Dalot's clean correctional record( he was reserved in the alternate nanosecond). For the alternate time in four down league matches,
United set up themselves 4- 0 down at halftime. That day at Brentford led to club captain Harry Maguire and Cristiano Ronaldo being dropped, as Ten Hag changed method to get his first season at United back on track. He'll have to go much further than leaving out two underperforming big-name players this time. This was, yet again, a maximum demotion at the hands of their neighbours. There are three effects to change — and change snappily.
Start Casemiro to spare Christian Eriksen
United's 4- 1 defeat at the Etihad Stadium last season came with interim director Ralf Rangnick experimenting with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba as false nines. It was a plan that boomeranged poorly, although at least it was only 2- 1 at halftime. Ten Hag's set-up was far more orthodox — a 4-2-3-1, with the same starting XI that beat Arsenal 3- 1 — but it still exposed a big problem with United's use of midfielders.
Christian Eriksen has had a fine launch to the season — indeed, he was named the club's player of the month for September ahead of Rashford. Yet his part alongside Scott McTominay at the base of United's midfield has felt ill-suited to his strengths and noway more so than against City.
Brentford targeted passes into Eriksen from the United back line to brilliant effect in their 4- 0 palm in August. Arsenal enjoyed plenitude of the ball in central areas at Old Trafford in their defeat. However, only City sounded to be apprehensive of them, If there were advising signs about Eriksen's failings off the ball.
There were gaps to exploit at the heart of the platoon in red from the off and City's fourth came directly from a counter-attack in which Kevin De Bruyne simply signed off Eriksen's attempts to stop him. United's£ 60 million signing Casemiro, a winner of five titleholders Leagues as a protective midfielder for Real Madrid, had to stay 59 twinkles before coming on. Eriksen is still an exemplary player in possession, but he's simply not suited to a two-man midfielder under Ten Hag — who, let's not forget, was so hopeless to subscribe Frenkie de Jong that indispensable targets were remitted until after the season had formally started.
Fix the forward line
Antony scored an absolute stunner to make it 4- 1, digging beyond Ederson from outside the box right in front of those travelling suckers who had stayed in the ground for the alternate half. It was a thing that neatly added up to the issue with United's attack, a leftover from the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer says that individual alleviation is the route to success.
United aren't short of riches up front, starting then with in- form Rashford and wide players in Antony and Jadon Sancho that bring around£ 150m, with Bruno Fernandes as No. 10. It's largely the same shape used by Solskjaer, in which the attacking players were instructed to conjure magic through ingrain gift rather than effective coaching and planning. The result is largely the same, too United's attack is unresistant and incoherent, with and without the ball, offering little sustained trouble to the opposite thing and leaving the aft six exposed.
4 - Since the start of 2020-21, Man Utd have conceded 4+ first-half goals in four Premier League games (v Spurs in Oct 2020, Liverpool in Oct 2021, Brentford in Aug 2022, Man City today); this is twice as often as any other side in this time. Humbled. pic.twitter.com/19Umi7fgHF— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 2, 2022
Compare that with City's forward line, where players are never left isolated against defenders, where a blue shirt is always a short pass away. Haaland's hat-trick goal, a classic of the Guardiola low-cut-back-and-finish genre, highlighted the difference. Ten Hag must get his attack functioning as a unit and fix the disconnect between the different areas of the pitch.
Focus on the long term
Ten Hag has been unfairly described as Pep Guardiola2.0 at times, having been at Bayern Munich at the same time as the Catalan. In Sunday's derby, the only main similarity between the two directors on the touchline was the pristine white coaches they wore.
The Dutchman was always going to bear time and tolerance at Old Trafford after taking over following United's worst Premier League season. They've enjoyed some positive performances, not least in defeating Liverpool and Arsenal at home. still, 12 points from seven games and a thing difference of-3 isn't a great look.
Still, Ten Hag showed after the debacle at Brentford that he's not hysterical to take bold( and largely effective) opinions. His changes to the platoon after that awful day in the capital led to a four-game winning run and a definite upturn in mood, not to mention a couple of awards.
There were signs indeed then that his styles are getting through, as they played through City's press effectively in the alternate half( a half they won 3- 2, as the more positive sympathizers will note). Amid the howls of derision at United's rearmost derby cession, Ten Hag would do well to keep his focus on how he'll turn United into a platoon able of matching City stride- for- stride in the future rather than chasing smash-and-snare results now.