Manchester United lose

All Alex Ferguson could do at the end of the match after losing the Manchester derby at home for the second straight season was blame the referees. What else? It’s not his fault that Manchester United were outplayed for most of the match in the middle of the pitch, while Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney looked too isolated and a tad useless upfront for most of the match. It’s always the officials.

But if we look past the usual Ferguson rant when his teams plays badly and loses, we’ll be left with the fact that this was a missed Premier League season, because of Manchester City and Roberto Mancini failing to put up a real fight and challenge to the title, remembering they’re a better side than Manchester United only 8 matches before it’s all over. Now it’s 12 points between the sides with 7 matches left to play. Surely too late to make something happen, right?

The move that won the match for Manchester City was Sergio Aguero coming on, and delivering another clutch goal to strengthen his position as a hero among City fans. For United, who haven’t conceded a league goal in over a month but still haven’t really impressed anyone with their play this season, it was the kind of match when all their faults caught up with them. Rafael is an exciting right back offensively, but without Rooney or Antonio Valencia covering for him, he’s a sitting duck for opposing teams with the talent to do something about it.

Alex Ferguson

City kept attacking from the left, as Gareth Barry kept drifting there, supporting Gael Clichy. After Samir Nasri was taken off, David Silva moved there as well, giving City a rejuvenated look for the final 20 minutes. Meanwhile, Alex Ferguson seemed to be a man without a plan, despite being the one great advantage Manchester United have over Manchester City. Robin van Persie can’t score, wasting all his ammunition during the first half of the season, not to mention hardly being able to do anything positive for his team.

Wayne Rooney? It was quite unclear what his role was for the team in the second derby of the season – something of a behind the striker who has a free role in how he defends and moves. But the counter attacking didn’t work, and the midfield, with Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs was completely overrun, without Rooney falling back to help like he knows perfectly well how to. Maybe orders, maybe his own decisions.

City have caught the train too late. It’s hard to think of a single really impressive Manchester United performance this season. Stretches of 15-20 minutes maybe. That’s been enough to build a huge, probably un-erasable lead at the top of the league, thanks to impressive form from Van Persie early on and a much better defensive approach over the last couple of months. But the deficiencies haven’t disappeared, they were just hidden quite well, for a while, until some teams, realized how to make the most of them. All that’s left is blame the referees.