How David Moyes' Tactics Lost Manchester United the Derby vs. Manchester City
While it is of course natural for him to take some time to get used to the new players, surroundings and expectations, a win over any of Chelsea, Liverpool or Manchester City would have bought him some appreciated goodwill and time from the supporters and critical viewers alike.
Alas, two defeats and a goalless draw are his sole returns from those matches in particular, with the recent 4-1 derby humiliation against City the most recent and spectacular of the disturbing results.
Form goes out the window, so they say, but it wasn't form so much as tactical mismanagement which cost United the points at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.
It was in other areas of the pitch, though, where perhaps the wrong decisions were initially made: Chris Smalling at right-back when Rafael and Fabio were available, and the persistence of playing an out-of-form Ashley Young over a more adventurous, creative midfielder who could contribute more all over the pitch.
Shinji Kagawa was the obvious option here, but there were others.
Aside from the XI who took to the pitch, within the opening 20-25 minutes, it was apparent that United had several problems in the game and, quite simply, Moyes took too long to remedy these.
By the time he made his first tactical switch on 51 minutes, United were already 4-0 down and the match was over.
United's Difficulty in Penetration
With United playing two central midfielders who were in place to protect rather than penetrate, in conjunction with two wingers, there was very little in the way of threat through the centre of the field in City's half.
Neither Young nor Valencia were open to cutting infield to aid United's buildup play, especially off the ball, leaving Rooney often isolated to pick up the ball somewhere near the final third and hoping to play off Welbeck.
Without runners from the second line of attack making up the numbers for the away side, it was all too easy for City to outnumber their opponents and win back the second ball, before starting another attack. This was a common feature of the first hour or so, which prevented United escaping their own half of the field and led to City's dominance of the ball.
Consider the lack of central involvement from what should have been United's three most attack-minded midfielders up until the switch after 50 minutes:
With Fellaini failing to get into the penalty area at all, or even close to it for much of the first half, and the two wingers barely reaching the same zone, it was little surprise to see Joe Hart have such a quiet start to the afternoon.
No outlet, no ability to construct attacks from deep and not enough bodies to hold up the ball meant that United were simply incapable of troubling City's back line.
Kompany vs. Rooney
Rooney was arguably United's best player on the day, but the first-half tactics hampered his ability to drag his team up the pitch.
With little support headed his way, and certainly no runners moving beyond him to join up with the attack, Vincent Kompany was frequently allowed to step out of City's defensive line to close down the forward and win back the ball.
Rooney was left frustrated on many occasions, due to having nobody to play off and being unable to take time on the ball, despite dropping into space to receive it.
Exploitation of the Wings and Behind the Pivot
Whereas United are often praised for their utilisation of space down the flanks, it was very much Manchester City—and in particular Jesus Navas—who made best use of those areas of the pitch at the Etihad Stadium.
Jesus Navas was a significant factor in #MCFC's victory in the derby. Maintaining the width opened acres for his colleagues to exploit— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) September 23, 2013
The Spanish winger, with his pace, was able to exploit United after turnovers of possession, while a rotating succession of Alvaro Negredo, Kun Aguero and Samir Nasri took up pockets of space behind United's deep-lying double-pivot in midfield to receive the ball.
Fellaini and Carrick neither managed to protect the defence by sitting deep enough, nor pressed opposition pairing Yaya Toure and Fernandinho high enough, inviting pressure from the latter two and failing to prevent the ball being played through space to the attacking members of City's team.
It took far too long for Moyes to address these issues in what was a critical match for the early part of his tenure.
He will have a quick opportunity to make up for those errors with another big game in midweek, in the Capital One Cup against rivals Liverpool. Fans will want to see an improvement in both initial team selections and in-game management, and indications are that he certainly has plenty of work to do on both counts.
Statistical imagery from Squawka.com.
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