De Bruyne and Mahrez’s brace reveal the floundering base of Manchester United

March 7, 2022

Life comes at you fast and harsh, if you are a Manchester United supporter right now. There is no better way to say this but United’s faltering foundation is what makes their supporters furious and restless. In Roy Keane, the former Manchester United star’s words, United should chase long-term goals other than short-term fix-ups. I believe my words are not making much sense now but let me present a fact. According to a group of Dutch economists, this collective failure of Manchester United was inevitable. They went on to explain that when a football team or any competitive organisation enjoys a decade-long success they are bound to have a considerable stretch of a challenging period after that. By stating this I am not trying to justify the poor performance showcased by the visitors at the Etihad last night but this can be one of the reasons why the fourth position of the Premier League is looking like a lot of work for a club of this stature.

Although, the message has been loud and clear from Richard Arnold, the new CEO of Manchester United towards his investors as he said-“We will foster a culture of excellence through a world-class football environment supported by a sustainable operated model”. But at the end of the season, it’s all about the results. When their cross-town arch-rivals defeated them and painted Manchester blue all these questions and doubts are bound to cloud the minds of the fans. It was not all bad for the Red devils on a bleak afternoon of a summery spring in the city of Manchester as they had shown some direction and purpose in some parts of the play, even though those parts were restricted to the first half but it was still better than the derby at Old Trafford last November.

After City’s rampant win at the Theatre of Dreams in the previous leg, Kevin De Bruyne iterated in an interview that they had prepared for the game against United for only half a training session as their opponents did not have a particular strategy at that time. But now the tables have slightly turned a bit strategically since Ralf Rangnick came along as the interim manager of United. He fielded two of his midfielders upfront yesterday and those players did not look comfortable in their specified positions. There was a huge gap in the midfield as Pogba, McTominay and Fred failed to combat against City’s fluid midfield line with Rodri and Bernardo Silva keeping a compact organisation and with Kevin De Bruyne slithering up front a couple of times without the United defenders noticing it.

With only some minutes left of the normal time and a secured win, thousands of Manchester City supporters turned their backs at the field of play to jig up and down in an exuberant Poznan celebration. It was one of those moments in the history of City when they had humiliated their opponents and exposed the cracks in Manchester United’s foundation.

City broke the deadlock with only 5 minutes on the clock as Bernardo Silva exchanged some passes with Jack Grealish at the left flank and cut the back inside the box for Kevin De Bruyne as the Belgian International crept past the United defence line and slotted in a left footer shot at the back of the net.

United looked a bit alive in the next couple of minutes and scored the equalizer at around 22nd minute, when Paul Pogba had set the pass up for Jadon Sancho, the former Manchester City youngster, made no mistake and placed the ball with his right foot from the centre of the box and sent it way past Ederson to the bottom right corner as the adolescent from City grew up to be a United man.

But the livewire struck United for only a brief amount of time and the joy of being on the front foot against the defending Champions had been short-lived as City came back with a blow within 6 minutes of their equalizer. Phil Foden attempted for goal but the shot was saved by de Gea and the ball rebounded back to Grealish and he jabbed but was blocked by the United defence and eventually the ball came off Harry Maguire’s foot to Kevin De Bruyne and his right-footed attempt on the goal found the back of net and the scoreboard glowed with 2-1 for the home team.

It was for the visitor’s Spanish custodian David de Gea the scoreline did not look much worse within the half-time. Harry Maguire did cut a poor figure in the defence by making clumsy challenges and opening gaps in between him and Victor Lindelof. The home team did make them look amateurish in their dominant second-half performance.

Maguire VS Foden

Riyad Maharez fired home a wonderful half-volley from De Bruyne’s corner as the ball flicked in off the forlorn Harry Maguire around 68th minute as Pep’s men kept on creating chances to increase the difference for the visitors.

Mahrez’s goal-scoring prowess met with Ilkay Gundogan’s through pass which had come out as magic on the pitch as the German international initiated the attack and lobbed the ball to Mahrez who looked offside but nevertheless blasted past David de Gea. When the VAR reviewed the goal it turned out he was on the level and City got their fourth and final goal in the evening.

Guardiola’s City is on another level but that should not be the excuse for the visitors to give up their will to come back on the driving seat of the game. With Raphael Varane being out due to COVID and Cristiano Ronaldo still reeling from a hip injury, United team slipped to the fifth position at the league table below Arsenal who had an enormous victory against Watford, thus putting a tin lid on the future prospects of the club. There are more things wrong than it is right and the 10 years of mismanagement and chasing after short-term goals is not going to improve this United team. Rangnick has been bold with his tactics and style of plays but this team needs more than that and I feel that under the new leadership the board will look for some long-term solutions.

TEAM NEWS:

Manchester City: Ederson, Cancelo, Laporte, Stones, Walker, Rodri, Silva, De Bruyne, Mahrez, Foden, Grealish. Subs: Carson, Sterling, Gundogan, Jesus, Zinchenko, Fernandino, Delap, Mbete, McAtee

Manchester United: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Telles, McTominay, Fred, Elanga, Fernandes, Pogba, Sancho. Subs: Henderson, Bailly, Jones, Mata, Rashford, Lingard, Dalot, Matic, Mejbri

King of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne