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Manchester City coast to win at Old Trafford despite Manchester United's improvement

Despite getting off to an unimaginably bad start, Manchester United did OK for much of the game against Manchester City. But the lack of a final ball and some cheap goals meant that City emerged with a deserved 3-0 victory.

Alex Livesey

I was halfway through writing that Manchester United had been on the end of a deserved and rather grim defeat at the hands of Manchester City, but that we'd not really been outplayed to any significant degree, being as we were the very inversion of United under Fergie. Midfield was surprisingly decent, despite Tom Cleverley putting in his usual showing. But when Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa can't find a final ball and you give away cheap goals, good things rarely happen.

Then, Yaya Toure scored, and it feels eerily significant. It makes absolutely no difference in the grand scheme of things but the result feels somehow different, like it could be a fatal one.

United started shockingly, with Rafael having to pull off a last-ditch tackle to rescue his team straight away and then Edin Dzeko turning the ball in shortly afterwards after a rebound from the post. There then followed 15 minutes of clowncar defending, an inability to pass out of the area, and general misrule in every area of the pitch.

After that, United were much better. It was probably partly because City simply took their foot off the pedal a bit and adopted a more counter-attacking strategy, but United saw plenty of the ball and got it forward fairly well. The problem continued to be what happened at either end.

Juan Mata was the same as he has been since he came to the club - fine touches, excellent movement, diabolical end product. After wasting two chances to provide a deadly ball with two woeful crosses, Marouane Fellaini found himself in a fine position but, perhaps not realising the time he had, opted to volley the ball first time and Joe Hart was able to parry it away.

At half-time, Moyes wisely opted to remove the anonymous Cleverley and replace him with Shinji Kagawa, but the Japanese playmaker was no better. A corner soon led to a killer second goal from Edin Dzeko, and United were looking doomed.

Of course, two goals in forty minutes is not the biggest ask in the world. But United just didn't look remotely like scoring - they'd get forward often, then a poor touch or a rubbish cross would be the end of it. Danny Welbeck came by far the closest to scoring with an elegant backheel, but it was remarkably well-saved by Joe Hart and United continued to founder.

Eventually, Yaya Toure - who had been surprisingly quiet up until then - put United out of their misery. A goal that meant nothing, and yet it felt significant. The mood changed. United were the equals of City for most of the game, and were in no way played off the park. But the third goal seemed to confirm the secret fear - City didn't have to try that hard here at all. It was as half-arsed as Bayern Munich easing Arsenal out of Europe.

Could it be the last goal David Moyes' Manchester United ever concede? Will we get to see Ryan Giggs take on Bayern Munich? At present, no path ahead looks a particularly safe one.