Over 300 retweets and 131 likes later, I’m still alive. City’s 2015/2016 campaign, however, was pronounced dead at 17.45pm on Sunday 20th March. Fifty-five thousand attended as City’s season and Martin Demichelis’s career were buried under a dust cloud left by 18-year-old Marcus Rashford. May they rot together in eternal hell.
Perhaps poking fun at the young Manchester United forward in my match preview was a bad move. The battle between Rashford and Demichelis proved to be horrifically decisive in the 171st Manchester derby that may well decide who finishes in the top four at the end of the season. This complete mismatch saw the 35-year-old Argentine chasing shadows for 60 minutes as Rashford skipped and squirmed beyond his reach like Usain Bolt drenched in Johnson’s baby oil.
United supporters wont let me live those comments down. Rashford, blessed with a Ferrari-like turn of pace and bottle beyond his years, appears to be the real deal. He is certainly a prospect (a tongue-in-cheek article can often fool people into thinking you’re infested with silly opinions), but what’s clear is that Demichelis is very much finished at the top level and that any forward with an ounce of speed could have had his pants down today.
Manuel, after witnessing his skipper and best defender Vincent Kompany limp off for the third time this season on Tuesday, was forced into playing him though, right? I’ve got to disagree. A much safer option would have been to move Bacary Sagna into centre-back and play Pablo Zabaleta, a man who knows more than most of our players what this fixture is all about, at right back. For most City fans that would have been the obvious choice having witnessed Demichelis’s staggering decline this term, but Pellegrini has proven so often that the obvious tends to evade him.
It really was a dreadful afternoon for Martin who was at the centre of our most humiliating moments this evening. On 16 minutes, it was Demichelis who fell to the ground like a branch from an old tree only to watch Rashford skate past and finish coolly past Hart. In the dying moments of the first half the pair dueled once again, this time Rashford darting into the penalty area and plunging to the turf as a hard shoulder knocked him off his stride. It was a clear penalty, referee Michael Oliver knew it, too, but somehow it wasn’t given. Five minutes into the second half a lethargic back-pass from the veteran forced Hart off his line, into a strong tackle with Martial, and finally into a stretcher. This was getting too much and Demichelis was finally put out of his misery on the 53rd minute.
Tactically, Manuel got this wrong again. He was made to regret his decision to play a two-man central midfield of Yaya Touré and Fernandinho as the visitors deployed the pace of Martial and Rashford into the huge amounts of space behind them. On today of all days, one would have thought Pellegrini would have given such a make-shift back four as much protection as possible, but instead he made it easy for Van Gaal to target our weak areas. This is not innovation from Pellegrini, nor is it an admirable display of bravery, it’s simply a refusal to learn from prior mistakes and a shameful exhibition of complacency. It’s extraordinarily infuriating.
The feeling was that, despite losing Raheem Sterling to a groin injury in 26th minute and conceding an early goal, that City had made a lucky escape from the first half. The second wasn’t much better.
This was too straightforward for a United side that have been ridiculed for their dire performance levels this season. Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin were given the space to slightly horizontalise their infamous lateral passing as Fernandinho dropped into centre back and the majority of our half-baked attacks came on the counter. Agüero again performed like a man who has lost all faith in his teammates, dribbling into dead ends and holding onto the ball for far too long. In fairness, Sergio did have our best effort – a header that rattled the left post of De Gea’s goal, but ultimately, it was a poor performance from the striker.
With what is likely to be a painful race for a place in the top four and two Champions League quarter final ties against Paris Saint Germain still to cone, the team still need backing until at least 15th May when the Premier League season expires. But backing this bunch is becoming a laborious and fruitless task when our efforts are not being repaid on the pitch. If that side can’t show any fight in the Manchester derby, perhaps not the most glamorous match up this term but still an enormously important fixture, then how can we expect any in our last eight games?
The international breaks comes at a good time for us. Regrouping will be a difficult task with only eight league games left to play, but a serious review of this season and a few rallying cries from players that still want to be in with a shot of playing under Pep Guardiola could give this withering squad a boost.
The same old criticism is recycled every single week and I for one can’t wait for a change.