The Manchester derby is one of the biggest local bouts in English football, and one that you usually see both teams going for with blood sweat and tears.
Forget what you are doing in the league, forget current form, and forget everything else! On the pitch it is all about that game and having the bragging rights over your rivals.
They are often heated affairs that feature a lot of great football, lost tempers, bad challenges, sending offs, great banter between two sets of fans and an electric atmosphere in the stadium.
The latest Manchester derby was a crucial one for both Manchester United and Manchester City. The latter’s title chase had faltered in previous weeks with a couple of defeats on the bounce and they had to ensure they bagged the three points to try and re-stabilise the ship and pick up some much needed momentum to chase the pack leaders, Chelsea. For United it was a need to close the gap to fourth place, start showing the footballing world that they are to be taken seriously again by winning big games and that they are on the road to recovery as a big and important club.
You fully expected to see the likes of Wayne Rooney leading from the front, doing what he does best and causing controversy from the off, and perhaps scoring another wonder goal against City which he is famed for doing usually.
The opening encounters in this game looked to offer everything that a football derby of this magnitude should offer, lots of desire, passion and great end to end football with the managers’ tactics working well and showing true football know-how.
For United things took a turn for the worse early on with the sending off of Chris Smalling on the 39th minute – a player who is one of very few recognised centre backs that they have available to choose from at the moment-highlighting just how big a crisis they are currently going through in the defensive area presently.
After his red card, United had to change their approach and found themselves defending for large periods of the game, which gave City the initiative to go on and attack. You always felt during the game that however much Man United were pressed and attacked that going forward they had more than enough quality to cause City some problems of their own.
Eventually, however, the inevitable happened and Manchester City took a deserved lead through the ever amazing Sergio Aguero after a thrilling and fluid passing display that led to a first time shot from the Argentinian.
At this point, you would expect, in any game let alone a derby as important as this one, for Manchester United to take the initiative, grab the game by the scruff of the neck, and give everything they had (plus more) to try and get back into the game and salvage something.
There’s a certain ex-manager who if his United side were playing that day would have done exactly that.
However as the minutes ticked on it became apparent that the Red Devils didn’t seem to care too much about what was happening. Every time they lost possession of the ball, they seemed to sit back, not put any pressure at all on the ball or the opposition player who had the ball for that matter.
Watching the Chelsea game during the same weekend, it was obvious to see how hungry they were, every time they lost the ball one of their players was chasing it down straight away and nine times out of ten, winning it back for his team. They are on course to be crowned champions this season and this is probably one of the reasons.
United on the other hand were simply sitting back, allowing City to come at them and attack, even at 1-0 down!
Robin van Persie lost the ball at one point and could have easily made a tackle to nab it back, yet he backed off and for large chunks of the resulting possession that Man City had, he was jogging away from the ball while looking back at the midfield, who were also backing off from the ball rather than doing what they could to win it back.
The game ended with United having a few chances to score, admittedly with some eye catching attacking play, but on the whole it was hard to see where the desire was, where the passion and hunger was in this game from the once great Manchester United.
Why were they so lacklustre? This is the big and great Manchester derby and they couldn’t get motivated. It wasn’t even the foreigners that, perhaps, did not have the understanding of what a derby means, it was the likes of Michael Carrick, Wayne Rooney and Premiership old boy Van Persie who should be aware by now of the enormity of this game.
If they continue like this throughout the season then they will be in trouble and will end up taking a few years longer than they plan to start winning things again.