United Are Back To Doing What They’ve Always Done
Ever since the Sir Alex Ferguson era ended there has been a collective obsession with the style of Manchester United’s play, without ever really focusing on the fact they were never really a free-flowing, pretty team to watch under the Scot.
They were just a relentless machine, dominating crucial periods in games and getting on top of you in order to win, grinding you down in the process (even if that includes benefitting from questionable decisions as they did with their second and third goals).
As they’ve shown in the recent victories over Tottenham, Liverpool and now City, that ‘United Way’ now seems to be back. Restoring it was always going to be Louis van Gaal’s biggest challenge, and as he gets to the end of his first campaign in charge that’s what he’s done.
Young, Fellaini & Mata Are United’s Restoration Men
The first three men who found the net for United have all had to put up with the failure to discover that ‘style’ mentioned above, and in the case of Marouane Fellaini they were actually blamed for the loss of it.
But the fact that all three are central to the recovery should serve to warn us all that we can all be too quick to judge.
Ashley Young wasn’t good enough for United, Fellaini didn’t fit in and Juan Mata would supposed to be overshadowed by expensive summer recruits, but look at them all now, and look at the impact they are having on their team.
Pellegrini Surely Can’t Recover From This
The alarm bells were ringing when he chose to play a rigid 4-4-2 in huge matches against Barcelona and Liverpool – losing both – but this loss must surely be the death knell for Manuel Pellegrini, whose Manchester City reign is unravelling quite remarkably less than a year after winning the Premier League title.
His team looks old and slow, it is in need of major surgery and he certainly doesn’t look like the man to be able to provide it.
Securing a place in the top four has to be aim in the short-term, but big changes look to be afoot in the summer.
And Vincent Kompany’s Time Is Up
He turned 29 this week, and that is clearly not an age when you are past it (this writer hopes so anyway), but Vincent Kompany just doesn’t look suitable for Premier League football any more.
Once a fearsome and feared leader, the Belgian just creaks around his side’s defence these days.
He was substituted at half-time before he had a chance to get sent off, and you get the feeling his time at City – like some of his teammates – is coming to an end.
Yet City Can Still Look Irresistible When It All Clicks
But it was nearly all so different.
When City came to Old Trafford in the darkest days of the David Moyes era, their lightning fast start and Edin Dzeko’s goal within 43 seconds seemed to sum up chasm that existed between the sides back then. This time you just wondered whether they could keep it up.
The age of the side and their recent performances made their impressive first 20 minutes or so feel like they were very important moments in the match, and how Jesus Navas must regret his missed chance before Sergio Aguero gave his side the lead.
A 2-0 advantage wouldn’t just have made this a very different game, you get the sense that it was vital if the visitors had any hope of winning it.
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