Belfast Telegraph

The verdict: Manchester City lose battle of wills and skills

By Steven Beacom

Magnificent for Manchester United and Louis van Gaal. They are on a roll. Six league wins in a row. Manchester City have lost FOUR times in the same period.

And yesterday was the worst defeat of the lot. Manuel Pellegrini's side were humiliated as they failed to match the desire, determination and drive of their fiercest rivals.

Derby matches are as much a battle of wills as a battle of skills. United won both convincingly. The scoreline should have been more than 4-2 in their favour.

Earlier in the campaign United were a pedestrian outfit, coming to terms with the shocking season before and the workings of new boss Van Gaal.

Had it not been for the goalkeeping excellence of David De Gea, United would have been in mid-table and the Dutchman under the pressure faced by predecessor David Moyes.

Now, inspired by the pace of Ashley Young and the power of Marouane Fellaini, two players most United fans would happily have ditched back in August, combined with growing confidence in the dressing room, they are playing some of the enterprising football the club is renowned for.

Young and Fellaini were on target yesterday, along with Juan Mata and Chris Smalling, having trailed early on. The home support left the Theatre of Dreams singing more heartily than they have done since Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge.

Victory over City virtually assured a Champions League return next season and at this stage in the post Fergie era, especially given what happened under Moyes, fighting Arsenal for runners-up spot is considered good progress.

Second place won't be satisfactory next season, but today all at United feel content the team is on the up.

Contrast that with City who have let themselves and their followers down in 2015.

Dumped out of the FA Cup and Champions League early in the year, in the last month they've surrendered their title.

City's defence of the 2012 Premier League crown was weak, but this effort has been even more feeble with big hitters and big earners like Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero failing to deliver. Unless they improve in their remaining games City will finish outside the top four.

Yesterday the visitors started superbly and scored on eight minutes undressing United's defence with a brilliant team move for Aguero to score. It seemed as though they had turned up for the occasion.

Once Young levelled though six mintues later and United got going, the Blues weren't tough enough mentally or physically to cope with Fellaini, a particular dominant force, and his energetic team-mates.

There were times when world respected footballers like Toure and Silva didn't look bothered!

The final insult came at 4-1 down when Aguero scored his 100th goal for the club in the 89th minute against a United side playing with 10 men due to Michael Carrick going off injured with no substitutes left to replace him. Three minutes of injury time were to be added.

City players should have been rushing to re-start the game, burning with hunger.

Instead they sauntered back to the centre circle having already given up the ghost. Shameful.

Belfast Telegraph


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