As a 4-1 derby day win over Manchester United wasn’t already enough to put a smile on the faces of Manchester City fans, then the meltdown of Roy Keane live on Sky Sports surely did.
After a chaotic end-to-end first half that saw United expose City’s vulnerability to counter-attacks, the visitors dropped off after half-time and City moved up a few gears.
Pep Guardiola’s side dominated their cross-town rivals in the second half, passing them into submission and making them look like a group of players who had never met each other before.
Riyad Mahrez scored a second-half brace to add to Kevin De Bruyne’s first-half double, but even without those two fine goals City would have rode out comfortable winners.
Ralf Rangnick’s side did not muster a single shot on target after the interval, the first time since the dour 0-0 draw with Liverpool in 2017 that they failed to hit the target in the second half of a Premier League game.
City enjoyed 79% possession in the second period and had 14 total attempts to United’s 0. From a red perspective, it was embarrassing.
“Especially the second-half, it was one of the highest levels we’ve played this year,” Guardiola said, and he was right. But for all of City’s technical brilliance and tactical superiority, perhaps the most noticeable difference between the two sides in the second half came down to one basic element.
“It’s hard when you’re out there and you’re up against a really good team, they’re obviously keeping the ball and you can’t get it back, but you’ve got to run back, you’ve got to tackle,” Keane smoked.
For a team currently coached by the ‘Godfather of gegenpressing‘, United’s unwillingness to run off the ball and at least put City under the slightest bit of pressure was shocking.
What was even more frustrating for United fans, Keane and Rangnick was that City showed them exactly what to do.
With the score at 3-1 in the 75th minute, Jesse Lingard broke away down the left wing after a De Bruyne free-kick had been cleared. It would have been a dangerous break-away, had five sky blue shirts not swarmed the winger and won the ball back. On co-commentary, Gary Neville lauded this supreme display of collective endeavor through gritted teeth.
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Intense pressing to try and win the ball back as quickly as possible is a hallmark of Guardiola football, and it is something Rangnick is trying to impose on United. But as Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl said of United last month: “It is not a big secret that when they lose the ball that the reverse gears are not the best from everybody.”
In the closing stages it was hard to count the number of times United players started walking as a City attacker carried the ball past them. Scott McTominay was guilty on more than one occasion, and running around an awful lot is basically his thing.
Keane was more direct than Hasenhuttl, if a little less eloquent, in his critique: “They gave up, and shame on them”
City are lightyears ahead of United, and if they keep up the intensity and hunger to do the simple things perfectly, then they will stay there.
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