Manchester City brushes Man United aside in lopsided derby
Mar 25, 2014 at 5:58p ET
Manchester City staked their claim to the Premier League title tonight, brushing aside their cross-town rivals with an imperious performance behind a pair of goals from Edin Dzeko and one from Yaya Toure to win out 3-0. City are now just three points behind Chelsea and have two games in hand to boot; the title is theirs to lose as they face a mild run-in with just one critical game left: against Liverpool on April 13.
Tonight’s derby was over almost from the start as City scored right off the opening kickoff, with Dzeko firing home after only 42 seconds. David Silva raced into the area, forcing Rafael to make a yeoman block that only fell out to Dzeko. He served the ball in easily to Samir Nasri, who cut inside and pinged his shot off the post…right back to a waiting Dzeko who simply walked the rebound in.
It was the second fastest goal in this derby’s history, only behind George Best’s sizzler scored back in 1968. As it happens, City went on to win that game as well, 3-1. Best cut a lonely figure that day – and Wayne Rooney, his heir at United – looked similarly disconsolate. Time and time again Rooney would come back, collect and attempt to create, only to be revealed as a man surrounded by far lesser talents.
United, looking ragged and bereft of ideas, was allowed to control more of the ball – and showed they could do very little with it. They failed to consistently trouble Joe Hart in the net and their lack of width – a defining characteristic of this team under David Moyes this season – proved to be a grave hindrance.
In fact, this game might have been a runaway for City if not for the intervention for David De Gea. The once-maligned United netminder slapped away a sure goal from Dzeko 18 minutes in after Yaya Toure intercepted a poor outlet and set the striker free wide right. Fernandinho also had a chance to double the advantage after the break, just nodding the ball over the crossbar off service from Vincent Kompany. It was a harbinger of things to come as moments later, Dzeko netted his second with an ease that belied the seriousness of his technique.
Nasri whipped in a fine corner, and the Bosnian opened up his body to volley the ball home with tremendous skill. The problem was that, once again, he had been left wholly unmarked by Rio Ferdinand. Try as the old hand might, he has been revealed as consistently and badly off the pace this year, and it is to De Gea’s credit that he has been able to cover up as many of his back line’s mistakes as he has. Yaya Toure would add a late insult, slamming to ball past De Gea just before the death of the half.
De Gea, of course, cannot help his side’s lack of mobility in the middle of the park. Tom Cleverley was simply abominable out there today for United, totally unable to contain Silva, offering little in the way of stability and sending passes awry with regularity. He was pulled at the half, but Shinji Kagawa offered little more.
The best chance for United Rooney whiffed on a cross, only to see the ball settle neatly for Juan Mata. He booted it into the stands. The only other true chance for the home side all night came when Danny Welbeck tried to put a backheel past Hart, only to see the keeper make a fine stop.
City, who were without Sergio Aguero for this match, rarely looked as if they had to get out of second gear. When they needed to clear danger, Yaya Toure and Zabaleta appeared to hook the ball away. When they needed to prise apart United’s defense, Silva and Jesus Navas stretched the field. And when they needed goals, they had plenty of options. Putting on Alavaro Negredo for a late run-out felt a bit like Manuel Pellegrini rubbing his side's superiority in United’s face – and why not?
The tables were reversed here for so long, with United rubbing their success in their neighbors’ faces, becoming so dismissive that for years you could be excused for thinking that City simply didn’t matter in Manchester. If they didn’t then, they do now, and tonight’s show was just more confirmation of how the balance of power between these two sides has shifted.
United look a team in dire need of a ground-up rebuild, and the question that hangs over their heads is not whether or not they will play in Europe next season (they will not on the evidence) but on whether or not Moyes is actually the man to preside over the reconstruction effort. As for City? The question now for them is if they can hold their nerve and raise the crown again this season. And European glory? That’s also in their future, perhaps. At least they’ll be there.