The Manchester derby turned out to be a game of complete contrasts, both in terms of the scoreline and the performances of the teams. Manchester City’s dominant 3-0 victory against Manchester United on Sunday showcased their mastery in pressing and build-up play, solidifying their position as title contenders for the fourth consecutive year. However, the highlight of the game was United’s disappointing display.
Throughout this season, United has struggled to deliver convincing performances, even on the days they manage to secure a win. Against City, they had little to offer, failing to convert any glimpses at goal. Numerous players were virtually invisible for long periods of the match. With such an unimpressive start to the season, the question arises: How can they fix this?
Here are three key takeaways from the game:
Haaland continues to shine
Despite City’s overall exceptional performance, one player truly stood out – Erling Haaland. The Norwegian star contributed two goals and one assist, including a first-half penalty. Haaland took five shots during the game, with four on target, and had an expected goal tally of 2.05. His reliability and stellar form throughout the season are evident, as he now has 11 goals in 10 league games, aligning with his expected goals tally of 10.25. Haaland’s impressive accuracy, with 61.5% of his shots on target, confirms that his initial success with the club was not a fluke.
United entered the game with a lineup featuring talented players, but they failed to perform collectively, mirroring their struggles throughout the season. The most significant issue for United was their ineffective midfield. The partnership between Christian Eriksen and Sofyan Amrabat proved unsuitable for the challenge, and Amrabat had minimal involvement, recording only nine touches before being substituted at halftime. The introduction of Mason Mount did not improve the situation. City’s lead in every category only grew in the second half, as United’s midfield became virtually non-existent. The lack of midfield presence hindered their overall gameplay.
What lies ahead for United?
The lopsided derby result is another blow in United’s disappointing season. Erik ten Hag, who led the team to a cup victory and a third-place finish in the previous season, has failed to replicate that success. The pressure on ten Hag is mounting, leading to questions about whether he will be allowed to address the team’s current struggles. However, it may be premature to expect his departure. The club’s chief executive, Richard Arnold, is reportedly leaving soon, potentially delaying any decision regarding ten Hag’s fate. In the meantime, it remains uncertain whether ten Hag can rectify the team’s course and if the underlying problem extends beyond the manager.