Loud boos echoed around Old Trafford on Saturday as Manchester United slumped to a 2-0 defeat to cross-town rivals Manchester City. It was yet another poor performance from Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s men, compounded by a pathetically negative tactical setup.
Solskjær’s decision to stick with the back three used against Atalanta in midweek proved to be a costly mistake. Wing-backs Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw played more like full-backs in a flat five, allowing City to dominate in midfield and deliver dangerous crosses from deep.
United had hardly touched the ball by the time the visitors broke the deadlock, with Eric Bailly slicing a low João Cancelo cross into his own goal in just the seventh minute. It proved the start of a long period of City dominance, with United offering almost nothing in attack.
It took until midway through the first half for Solskjær’s side to carve out a chance, and it was a good one. Some slick passing allowed Luke Shaw to deliver a low cross from the left, met superbly on the volley by Cristiano Ronaldo. City keeper Ederson repelled the shot, almost into the path of Mason Greenwood, but he couldn’t react quickly enough to tuck it home.
However, United remained firmly second best, and City continued to dominate, particularly through the deadly combination of Cancelo and Phil Foden down the left. Twice Foden delivered low crosses into the United box: Victor Lindelöf forced David de Gea into a smart reflex save on the first, while both Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus went close to stabbing in the second.
It took until stoppage time at the end of the first half before City finally scored a deserved second, and — quelle surprise — it was from another deep cross. Cancelo curled a perfectly weighted ball in behind Shaw at the back post, where Bernardo Silva stuck out a leg to poke it inside de Gea’s near post. It was a poor piece of goalkeeping, but United could have no complaints.
Happily, the back five was ditched early in the second half, with Jadon Sancho introduced for Bailly. But still United were blunt in attack, and not even the introduction of Marcus Rashford in place of Mason Greenwood helped improve things. The remainder of the game was a drab affair in the Manchester drizzle, with City comfortably controlling possession and seeing out a totally routine win.