Heading into the clash between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad, most people will not have given the red half of the city much chance of coming out on top regardless of what had gone before. And they were proved to be correct, as Pep's team ran out impressive 4-1 winners. But, does the derby result again underline the desperate situation at Old Trafford?
It's fair to say that while United’s recent form of late had slowed up slightly, with more draws than wins returned over a six-game unbeaten run in the Premier League. But, on the whole, they have been doing well.
Following their 4-1 humbling at Vicarage Road at the hands of Watford, they’ve only lost twice in the league, recording eight wins and six draws. But United naturally see themselves as one of the top dogs, and when they face outfits challenging at the top end of the table, sometimes the Premier League odds available don’t reflect their feeling of superiority.
And that has never been more evident by United’s capitulation in the second half of their derby defeat, with City adding a couple more goals to the 2-1 scoreline they headed into the break with. There were worrying signs on several fronts for Ralf Rangnick and the United hierarchy to look back over, the first being that when Pep Guardiola’s side stepped things up a gear, United simply couldn’t cope. They looked like they didn’t belong on the same pitch as the defending Premier League champions.
There was also a further significant worry, which was highlighted by both Gary Neville and Roy Keane, two United icons, that when the game started to get away from Rangnick’s team, they pretty much gave up. The aggression from United’s game had deserted them, and so had their willingness to press and defend.
If United want to be able to compete for a top-four place as a bare minimum, they need to find these qualities again and fast. They must head into games with that never-say-die attitude that proved to be so successful for the club in the Sir Alex Ferguson glory years. United never knew when they were beaten, but this current side looks like it can’t handle setbacks on the pitch and fails to show the correct responses.
When you look through United’s squad, there are winners and players who have achieved a lot in their careers. But, now the question must be asked whether any thought went into recruitment in the era where former CEO Ed Woodward controlled matters on this front. Or if it was a case of signing individuals for hefty fees and hoping things would work out.
A fair criticism is that the culture inside the club hasn’t been what it should be since Ferguson left. Rangnick is on the scene to help reshape things from within, but it could prove to be a job that takes years to complete, as an overhaul of the playing squad is undoubtedly needed.