LONDON: Last night presented a fascinating contrast in fortunes. German champions Bayern Munich, who changed their coach last summer, retained the league title a record seven matches early . . . while English champions Manchester United, who changed their manager last summer, were left 18 points off the top of the table.
Defeat at home to neighbours Manchester City was not a surprise in itself the gap in class, confidence and style between the teams was even more marked than the three-goal scoreline suggested.
United are now guaranteed their lowest points tally in the Premier League era (73 if they win all their remaining matches, compared with 75 in 1997 and 2004) this was the first time City had beaten them three times in a row at Old Trafford in more than 40 years; and the first time United have lost six times at home in the league since 2001-02.
Realisation of the pace of the slide over the past seven months prompted, for the first time, shouts of anger directed at Sir Alex Ferguson in the directors’ box for having anointed David Moyes as his managerial heir. Stewards had to protect the ‘Chosen One’ banner which hangs high up in the stands.
United were doomed almost from the start, with Edin Dzeko scoring after only 42 seconds. It was the first time United had conceded a first-minute goal at Old Trafford in the Premier League. Dzeko struck again soon after half-time before Yaya Toure rounded off City’s third win in a row the Champions League elimination by Barcelona.
United’s Wayne Rooney said later: “It’s not good enough. We can’t lose six homes games in a season and we have to put that right, and make this a place which teams fear again.
“The fans were great again [and] as a team, we need them to be strong and to understand there has been a big change at the club. We have to step up and start giving the fans something to cheer about with some good performances and wins.”
Where United find these wins is another matter entirely.
Tom Cleverly, back in midfield, looked frightened of the ball; his substitute, Shinji Kagawa, arrived only at half-time, too late to disturb City’s command; Marouane Fellaini was lucky not to have been sent off for an elbow on Pablo Zabaleta; Juan Mata, on the right, again looked a little boy lost; United, their tactics all wrong, never picked up David Silva.
Rooney and Danny Welbeck, in attack, tried hard but United never saw enough of the ball to provide any effective service around goal.
Even Moyes may consider he chose his words unfortunately after the game. United fans do not want to hear their manager say of City: “We’ve played a very good side and it’s the sort of standard to which we need to aspire.”