A flattering 6:3 sport

There Erik ten Hag stood and could no longer do anything with all the praise. Manager of the Month the Dutchman had become during the week because he was with Manchester United had won four games in a row in September and overcome its first internal crisis. The monthly title is a good indicator of how the form is developing and was justified in this respect: As bad as ten Hag’s start at United was, he had caught up so well – at least until Sunday afternoon when he and his team the limits were shown at the most unfavorable point in time.

Manchester United lost 6-3 in a thrilling urban derby to rivals City, but the result after 90 minutes read almost flatteringly given the crushing dominance Pep Guardiola’s side had exercised throughout the match. Three goals by Phil Foden and three goals by Erling Haaland ensured clear conditions that not everyone had expected.

“It was surprising for me,” said ten Hag, who criticized his eleven with sharp words. They collapsed like a house of cards after conceding the first goal in the eighth minute, and his team apparently didn’t even believe in themselves: “If you don’t believe in it on the field, you won’t win any games: that’s acceptable.” United wanted to show courage and self-confidence, but instead they “left Haaland alone.”

That, in turn, is actually a dangerous idea right now. The Norwegian scored goals 12, 13 and 14 in his eighth Premier League game and has already scored as many hat-tricks as Cristiano Ronaldo in his United career. “Yes, that’s incredible, his numbers are scary,” said Guardiola about Haaland, who has long been credited with the goal record set by Alan Shearer and Andy Cole (34 goals in one season) in England.

Manchester City with a new approach this season

“We all feel this passion, the desire to play forward, to attack. It was just great today, that’s all there is to say,” said Haaland himself after the game, once again making it clear that City with its new striker in new dimensions could advance – although not everything is better in terms of play and tactics. On the offensive, Guardiola’s team is actually a bit better to calculate this season, since almost every attack is designed to ensure that the last pass arrives at Haaland. Against teams like the strikingly disoriented United, however, it is precisely these passes that work: Kevin De Bruyne’s brilliant pass before the 3-0, which the striker converted in a slide, was a prime example of the new approach this season.

The structures of the two teams made it relatively clear how different City and United are in their respective developments. Guardiola’s team combined calmly and almost flawlessly from the back four, had more than 70 percent possession of the ball for large parts of the game and only came under some pressure after numerous changes in the final quarter of an hour. Ten Hag’s team, on the other hand, had no access in midfield on the one hand, but on the other hand no opportunity to build up the game and create their own scoring chances. “We were undisciplined,” said ten Hag: “There were areas we could have played into, but we didn’t have the courage to do so.”

The progress of the past few weeks, in which United were able to win two important games against Liverpool and against league leaders Arsenal with dedicated performances, now seems like from another time after the 3: 6, and the mood was corresponding: Already at half-time there was a lot of excitement the United supporters went home from the guest block, Ronaldo and Casemiro exchanged embarrassed looks on the bench. Ten Hag later said he didn’t want Ronaldo to come on when the score was 4-0 or 5-1 “out of respect for his great career”.

Has Guardiola’s team reached their peak?

However, Ronaldo United would probably not have helped either. Even Guardiola’s newly formed defense of Nathan Aké and Manuel Akanji had little trouble controlling the quick Antony, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial – United’s goals, which made the result seem a bit more humane, came from long-range (Antony, 56 minutes), a weak one Defense by goalkeeper Ederson (Martial, 84th) and a penalty (Martial, 89th).

Ten Hag had recently proven that with Manchester United he had already developed a team that can also beat other Premier League favorites, but the “process” that the coach talks about before and after each game is still a long way off not completed – which again especially against a team like Manchester City stands out, who is currently more dangerous than ever and may have reached the height of their creativity. However, it is based on a lot of time, numerous transfers and a year-long process in which Pep Guardiola has been named Manager of the Month eleven times so far. The twelfth award may soon follow.

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