Jose Mourinho registered yet another loss against Pep Guardiola and it seems their eternal battle came to an end. It’s been a long time since we had the opportunity to live up to the hype of the Manchester derby. The clash between the two Manchester sides at the Etihad was rather one-sided and saw the home side go 12 points clear of their neighbors after just 12 games of the 2018/19 Premier League season.
The brightest spark in Mourinho’s side was once again Anthony Martial. The young French starlet made it five straight Premier League games with a goal from the penalty spot after Ederson had brought down Romelu Lukaku.
But that was all from United at the Etihad. Their only shot on target was the penalty, and Ilkay Gundogan wrapped up the points for City after an amazing 44 passes between City players prior to the third goal five minutes from time.
As expected, United struggled to gain control of the game in possession, but their game plan was to give up the ball and wait their chance to hit City on the break with the pace of Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford.
Mourinho’s selection of midfield players against City demonstrated his incompetence and yet more proof that his approach and tactics are outdated. Flat-footed Fellaini and Matic played into Guardiola’s hands as they were utterly destroyed by the movement of two Silvas, David, and Bernardo. The City duo are masters in what they do; exploit space between the lines and play quick, short passes around the opposing side.
It was compelling to watch the Silvas often dropping in the same line as Fernandinho in order to pull Matic and Ander Herrera with them. This created enough space behind for Aguero to drop in to, or for Sterling and Mahrez to move inside. Mendy and Walker were then also able to push up to make diamonds, creating overloads between United’s defense.
Cheuk Hei Ho from Tacticsplatform.com recently posted an overview of the formations Premier League teams have been using this season. Guardiola’s excellence can be seen in City’s unique and almost geometrically perfect setup.
By contrast, Mourinho’s United is lost in chaos, with their only passing connections on the left side of the pitch. Of course, United’s best performer this season, Paul Pogba, operates there, drawing with himself Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial at times.
Guardiola’s team is well-connected all around the pitch, and has a distinct structure in every phase of the game, as opposed to the chaos and disorder which are stopping United from performing better.
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace: Easy home win?
After the international break, Manchester United host Crystal Palace. This game is a great chance for Mourinho’s men to get back on track. Yet it is hard to say they’re absolute favorites to win the game against Palace since their inconsistency this season is appalling.
While City, Liverpool, and Chelsea are undefeated in the league, United have won just six games and have dropped more points against sides outside the traditional top four than any other predicted title challenger. They simply have to improve their record against sides they are expected to beat. The Red Devils’ performances in matches with Wolves, West Ham, Newcastle and Bournemouth where they struggled were hard to swallow.
One could argue United won against Newcastle and Bournemouth, but it was far from deserved. United now have a relatively easy run of fixtures and only time will tell if they have learned their lesson.
Still, Palace have lost five of their last six matches in the Premier League and conceded at least twice in each of their last three away matches. This is what gives United an edge on paper ahead of Saturday’s match.
Against United, Crystal Palace will largely retain their usual deep defending, counter-attacking style of play. Roy Hodgson has made his side more reliant on Wilfried Zaha rather than Christian Benteke. The Belgian continues to under-perform against his expected goals to a greater extent than anyone else in the league.
This means they have become more dynamic as a team, especially because Zaha offers a wider variety of forward roles in which they will look to upset their hosts on Saturday. Zaha missed the defeat to Tottenham before the international break though, and will be desperate to recover in time to play against his former side.