Philosophy. Character. Belief. That’s Sundays game summarized in three words which have become all too familiar in recent weeks for any United supporter. It was clear coming into this one how the tides change so fast in football. It was only the other day when the champions were 10 points ahead of United, and even though Chelsea had a decent gap in between them and second place, there was still hope that there could be a title challenge in the works. All that has changed now, and momentarily, all eyes in Manchester are on United.
From the onset, however, things didn’t seem to be that way. In the opening minutes, City’s concise passing and movement would leave you feeling like a fool wondering whether this was still the same team that “lacked confidence”. United seemed to regress within moments and indeed within the first 10 minutes, City were ahead following an easy tap in for Sergio Agüero, provided by the silky David Silva.
What followed next was arguably what has been missing in this United side for quite a long time now. Even I was shocked. Immediately after conceding, there was no panic. No fear. No bowed heads. United got onto their horse and never looked back. The game plan came into effect and within six minutes, they were right back in it. Following what seemed to be a hasty clearance by De Gea after Jones’ dreadful back pass, the ball (luckily) landed straight onto Fellaini’s head on the left flank, who then laid it off to Herrera who provided an immaculate pass into the area which despite Clichy’s best attempts to clear, fell well for Young. United were RIGHT back in it. (God, how I have missed saying that!) A bit of a rarity there, considering United’s form whenever they’ve went down first in a match.
Thirteen minutes later, and United were at it again on that left flank. Ashley Young was becoming a continuous thorn in the flesh for poor old Zabaleta. After a back heel-cum- nutmeg on the Argentine that found Blind inside the area, he got the return and whipped the ball to the far post and guess who was there? Big Hair Fellaini! Now, I don’t know whose idea it was to pair Clichy with Fellaini, but City paid the price. It was a no-brainer as to who would win that challenge.
After the half, the “100%”fit Kompany was replaced by an equally out of form Mangala (
I wonder why). United’s dominance continued and scored twice just as in the first half, with Mata and Smalling (of all people?!?) joining the party. City then closed the scoring, as Agüero netted in a century of goals for City in the fastest time, but trust me, it doesn’t count for much when your biggest rivals are ripping you to shreds on the other end. The game ended at 4-2, a scoreline that perhaps didn’t capture the whitewash that City faced.
The game encapsulated what our dear manager is all about. You see, for a long time, it seemed that it was only Van Gaal who believed in his philosophy, that he would guarantee Champions League football at Old Trafford once again. And even after weeks of unrelenting criticism from pundits and fans alike, Van Gaal never lost the bigger picture, and as a result he did what he had to do to get United playing the way they ought to be. And there lies the biggest difference between the two managers. GUTS.
For lack of a better phrase, Van Gaal, unlike PALEgrinni, just “doesn’t care” *Andy Tate voice*. You see, when you’re in a top club, managing star-studded, world class top quality players, sometimes the pressure to cave in to their demands can overwhelm you. We’ve seen it year after year, where players who are out of form keep on playing simply because they are a ‘big name’ in football. Well, that doesn’t exist in Van Gaal’s philosophy. Here, its all about performance. If you would’ve told me last year that Young and Fellaini would be the poster boys for United’s renaissance, you’d be on top of my list of biggest liars for at least a month. After all, who thought they would stand a chance against the likes of Falcao and Di Maria??
Van Gaal perhaps stutters in his speech, but not in his actions. It’s clear for all to see that with what seems to be a pretty average United squad, except maybe for Mata and Rooney, the quality of play is remarkable. If they were stripped of their jerseys, you’d easily mistake them for Barcelona or Bayern Munich (Okay, I’m really pushing it there) but the Managers influence is undeniable. This is where the difference lies. Van Gaal has the guts to drop players of such a high caliber like Di Maria, Falcao and RVP (albeit through injury) in order to balance the squad. Pellegrini is incapable of this. In my previous post, I mentioned that perhaps Toure should’ve been dropped to the bench for the derby, as his body language and performances have been atrocious of late. But Pellegrini’s rigidness and ‘niceness’ meant that he still started him. Further evidence of his lack of control at City was evident when he took off Milner, who was arguably the only one perfoming alongside Agüero, instead of maybe Fernandinho who had such a terrible game ( even De Gea had more passes & touches than him).
If Pellegrini wants to salvage whatever is left of his season (and potentially his job) he has to act. And act fast. Even though he changed the formation on Sunday, he didn’t pick the right players to enforce it. How long will it take him to realise that Toúre CANNOT play in that holding midfield role? He needs to take charge at City and tame those raging egos. There was simply no fight or resolve in his players. Even after Agüero scored the second goal, no one was scrambling to restart play! What a sharp contrast to the City that won the league on closing day. All I saw were dejected players who had already lost all hope and too full of themselves to atleast try and rescue a point. I certainly think about 3 or 4 changes should be made when they face West Ham on Sunday but until then, somebody’s getting sacked in the morning…
Before I forget, special mentions to Christian Benteke and Yannick “Yala” Bolasie for their supreme performances over the weekend. Big 3 points for their respective clubs and a magnificent 11 minute hat-trick from the Congolese. I’m a big fan of Yala and I think he’s right up there alongside Hazard and Young as the best wingers in the Premier League right now.
6 games left, plenty of drama unfolding at the top and bottom of the league and all to play for. The 2014-15 season is approaching its climax in exhilarating fashion. Don’t sleep, you might just miss something BIG!
See you on the pitch!