The much talked about Manchester derby failed to deliver on its promises. It was expected to be the biggest fixture for match day 11. Many looked forward to a blockbuster given the history of the fixture, and its possible implications in the title race.
A feast of goals was also expected, a common feature in recent meetings. With both sides looking to make a statement on the back of an inconsistent start to the season, the conditions were right for a feisty night. As it turned out, the game was an anticlimax.
Both managers somehow conspired to serve us a drab game lacking the vital components of a big fixture, and a derby for that matter.
That left many disappointed, not the least City fans. The City faithful were expecting Pep Guardiola to consolidate on recent performances in the Premier League after comfortable back-to-back wins. With six points behind main title rivals after 10 games, dropping more points could prove costly in the long run. Both sides ended up sharing a point apiece.
The disappointment at both the performance and result was also felt in the red side of Manchester. Many United faithful expected a derby win to soothe the pain of an unexpected early exit from the Champions League. The club’s former captain Roy Keane in his characteristic manner, held nothing back after the game.
“You can make a lot of excuses. Just on today’s game, it’s really poor at the end of the game, with the quality they have, the lack of desire to go and win a game of football,” Keane said while speaking on Sky Sports.
“Two bookings in a derby game, I have never seen so many hugs and chats after a derby game.
“I’m scratching my head and I’m really frustrated because I think you have to try and find a way to win a game of football.
“City, as we expected, had loads of possession but were predictable – sideways, backwards, no intensity and a real lack of quality given the players they had on the pitch.
“United, credit to them, defensively they did well. But the lack of quality and end product from both teams was really poor.”
Keane added: “I said at half-time, both of these clubs have had success over the last few years from going to win football matches.
“There is an element that you have to gamble a little bit. I’m not saying you have to put seven or eight people in the box but you have to try and win.
“We’ve been in teams that don’t settle for draws. It’s the derby and John Stones is talking about clean sheets and blah, blah, blah, you’ve got to go and win football matches.
“There is a long way to go in the season but when the game is there for you, with the quality on the pitch, I never felt City were going to score goals.”
The legendary United defender makes a valid point about City’s emphasis on keeping clean sheets as captured in John Stones’ assertion. At a time when the rivalry at the top has intensified, taking all three points should be prioritised over clean sheets.
Yes, a point on the board is always better than none. Yet, a confident Manchester City would not be overly concerned about losing to Manchester United as seen in home and away victories over the Red Devils in the 2018/19 campaign.
Let’s face it, Guardiola should not go into a game against Ole Gunnar Solskjær fearing for a loss. In terms of achievements and pedigry, both managers are miles apart. The City boss also has a squad capable of beating any team on the continent. And if there was any time to beat United, it was now.
Bizarrely inconsistent, the Red Devils practically had their tails tucked in between their legs. Coming off the back of a calamitous exit from Europe’s elite competition, the team is currently unsettled. Add to that controversies concerning star player Paul Pogba and you have the perfect conditions for a team there for the taking.
A ruthless City should be taking advantage of the situation rather than come to Old Trafford to sit down and wait for a point. It is important to note that despite optimism from certain quarters in the red side of the city, United are not among the title contenders this term. Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea are all looking better. Jurgen Klopp and Jose Mourinho look like the main competition.
Therefore, Guardiola must up his game and get City on one of those long winning runs if the side is to topple the table toppers at the end of the campaign.