At full-time, the gap between the teams was five goals. But did the game, United’s heaviest home defeat since 1955, expose a gulf in class? Did it prove beyond all doubt that the balance of power in Manchester has shifted from red to blue? It did not.
With two minutes to play, City, who had enjoyed a numerical advantage for almost the entire second half, were 3-1 up and nervous. Joe Hart took an age over his goal-kicks, his team-mates slowed down every award of a United free-kick. Sir Alex’s men had battled bravely until then but, a man down and up against the league’s leaders and form side, the task had proved too tough.
Then came a crazy final few minutes, in which the Reds’ defence disintegrated and City waltzed through to add a further three goals and become the first side to notch six in a league game at Old Trafford since 1930. The final scoreline didn’t reflect the preceding 90 minutes, although United can have few arguments. After all, switch off like that and good teams will punish you. And City are a good side.
Fans are right to condemn the late lapse in concentration, but when it was 11 v 11 in the first half – and for long periods in the second when United were down to 10 men – Sir Alex’s side gave as good as they got. Even at full-time the statistics showed City only edged possession 51% to 49% and territory 52% to 48%. Those numbers aren’t what ultimately counts, of course, but they’re hardly indicative of a 6-1 scoreline.
Roberto Mancini’s men deserved the three points and David Silva was, admittedly, brilliant. But claims City’s midfield completely over-ran United are wide of the mark. Gareth Barry, James Milner and Yaya Toure were not exceptional and few Reds supporters would welcome any member of that trio to Old Trafford on a permanent basis.