Manuel Pellegrini’s side are on course to go top of the Premier League after a comprehensive derby win, with the Spanish playmaker having been at the heart of his side’s dominance
By Jay Jaffa
From the first minute to the last there only ever looked like being one winner of this Manchester derby. The only surprise was that Manchester City didn’t win by a more commanding scoreline, such was their dominance.
Manuel Pellegrini said in the build-up that he saw this as a game his side would “expect to win” – a bold statement – but one his team swiftly justified, taking the lead on 43 seconds through Edin Dzeko before trundling on and comfortably winning at Old Trafford.
‘Comfortable’ was the operative word – the 6-1 win under Roberto Mancini two years ago felt like a freak result once the dust had settled – but this was a procession and led brilliantly by the majestic David Silva.
The Spaniard was everywhere – the hook between midfield and attack and a constant menace to Manchester United. They couldn’t get near him. In fact it said more of their disorganised midfield that they couldn’t even foul Silva. Too much space, too much time.
He may not have made it onto the scoresheet or registered an assist but it was frankly irrelevant. The damage he did just in front of Phil Jones and Rio Ferdinand was felt time and again, constantly probing, persistently asking questions of a defence retreating in fear. The United midfield couldn’t pinpoint or stop him. Not in the first minute, not in the last. That was the biggest testament to this fine display.
He was, as usual, superbly protected by Fernandinho and Yaya Toure and given the license to roam from the middle and direct traffic towards David De Gea’s goal.
In contrast, Marouane Fellaini – all £27.5 million of him – toiled, fouled and was fortunate to avoid a red card for an elbow on Pablo Zabeleta. The Belgian fell short of expectations at Old Trafford – a running theme since his move from Everton – and was hauled off midway through the second half.
Moyes desperately needed an intelligent performance from the giant midfielder, instead he watched as ill-discipline overcame Fellaini on the big stage. It may have been frustration, most likely the product of coming off second in just about every duel he faced – though he was far from the only player in red to lose their personal battle.
With Fellaini struggling and Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley getting overrun, Silva’s Spanish compatriot Juan Mata suffered. He barely had a platform to build from and he was too easily shackled by Fernandinho and Toure – both towering presences in the middle of the park.
Mata looked out of sync with those around him, overhitting a cross to Fellaini and sweeping a right-footed shot over the bar. On a night that required him to deliver the ingenuity he has become so renowned for, he faded to black.
As United spluttered in the final third and stumbled at the back, Dzeko grabbed his second from a routine near-post Samir Nasri corner. Once again, everything looked too easy. The Bosnian glowed in his post-match interview as he talked of City’s “amazing” performance and highlighted how vital victory was in the club’s chase for the Premier League title.
For United, talk of winning the title has not felt so far away since the 1980s.
Pellegrini came under fire earlier this season for City’s Jekyl and Hyde performances on the road. On the evidence of Tuesday night the Chilean has found the right balance and in Silva, City surely have the most in-form playmaker in the top flight.
Moyes believed this was a chance to show that United are “not as far away [from City] as many people would have us” but by the final whistle it only served to illustrate how much work needs to be done. He could start by providing Mata with the type of quality in midfield that allows Silva to sparkle.
He sashayed and buzzed his way around the men in red, ghosted behind his markers and typified the dominance of City’s midfield as they orchestrated another famous derby win. A comfortable, controlled derby win.