While this was not the dire capitulation we witnessed against Liverpool recently, it offered a stark confirmation of the gulf between ourselves and our local rivals and the championship-chasing pack in general. There’s no point in anyone trying to deny that city’s superiority was evident throughout, however much United gamely attempted to rescue what was a lost cause from the moment the second goal went in shortly after half-time.
The game couldn’t have got off to a worse start. An excellent challenge from Rafael on Silva thwarted city’s first attack but left the right back out of position when the ball fell to Nasri, whose shot thudded against the post but landed at the feet of Dzeko, who grabbed a tap-in to put his side in front within a minute. The visitors were rampant for the first ten minutes or so, Yaya Toure and Silva finding acres of room in midfield and United struggling to get out of their own half. There were several other occasions where the lead might have been doubled early on: De Gea made a fine save from Dzeko and at one stage the keeper’s exasperation with his defenders led to a Schmeichel-esque rant that may or may not have had an impact on a more composed display from thereon.
Having weathered that early storm, United began to gain a greater proportion of the possession and raised hopes by carving out chances of their own. Both Fellaini and Mata found themselves with space in the area to get a shot in in but the former struggled to get over the ball and hit it straight at Hart, while the latter struck his effort well over the bar. While no United supporter could be happy with the scoreline at the interval, there was some relief that things had not been allowed to get worse, and that Fellaini had not been shown a red card for what looked a clear elbow, along with some optimism after United had begun to establish some control as the half had gone on.
Such optimism proved to be short-lived as city came out of the blocks with renewed vigour after half-time and after ten minutes were 2-0 up, Dzeko again providing the vital touch when he arrived at the near post on a corner to deflect the ball past De Gea. Again, United attempted to make a game of it, Welbeck testing Hart twice, his second a classy flick with twenty minutes of the game remaining to which the keeper was equal. Rooney tested him too, arrowing in a free kick from the left that was punched clear with Evra lurking close by.
City grabbed their third in stoppage time, via a strike from the imperious Yaya Toure, a player who more than anybody else illustrates United’s deficiencies at the moment when playing against teams at the very top level. The goal added further lustre to the scoreline, although in truth city had done enough in the ten minutes at the start of each half to secure victory and however much spirit United showed in between has to be viewed in that context. We didn’t lie down and die in the way we did against Liverpool, but the sad truth is that the result was the same anyway.