A complete performance, ruthless finishing, magnificence all over the pitch and a total destruction of our rivals. It was the perfect day to be a City fan.
The scoreline may not have been, but the performance was arguably more emphatic than in the 6-1 humiliation of a couple of years ago. On that occasion, the Blues were able to take advantage of an extra man and score three times late on, whereas yesterday was a thumping throughout. Had City not taken it easy after an hour when the margin was already four, it could have been plenty worse for United and the consolation they scored at the end flattered them. Make no mistake, this was a rout.
While it is fully justified to direct criticism in our visitors’ direction - the absence of their key man resulting in such a limp and spineless showing - it is only fair to lavish praise on how we played, full of spark, quality and heart. With outstanding performances from the whole side, it was a thumping that was thoroughly deserved. There was pace, tempo, vibrancy, creativity, purpose and drive: all elements we’ve seen in glimpses previously but it came together perfectly to create a procession of enthralling attacking football.
There were a few concerns approaching this match about our imbalance in midfield and how, with the departure of Gareth Barry and the presence of Fernandinho in an unfamiliar holding role, we were a touch vulnerable in the centre. That was in evidence at times as Wayne Rooney dropped deep to find plenty of time and space, but such was our constant threat going forward, we were able to dominate possession and control the game. Indeed, there were a handful of genuine man of the match contenders, from the authority and leadership of Vincent Kompany in defence through to the dazzling movement and workrate of both Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo, via the power and physicality of Yaya Touré, but perhaps the most surprising influence on proceedings was Samir Nasri.
Castigated after this fixture last season for his gutless display, he has invariably been a figure of frustration in a City shirt, his natural talent wasted by his shirking of the creative burden. Yesterday, however, he was inspired. Full of running, he moved intelligently to search for the ball and he drove repeatedly at the away side’s backline. Chris Smalling was twisted and turned ad infinitum, and when Nasri drifted more centrally, he showed guile and a desire to make the breakthrough. Motivated and with a point to prove, he has been vastly improved over the past couple of games and must keep it up. He’s always had the talent but now it seems like he’s found the application to match.
Many of the others could easily be singled out for praise, but whilst he didn’t score, the performance of Alvaro Negredo encapsulated everything that was so admirable about City’s display. The Spaniard has had an excellent start to his career with the Blues and given the opportunity to ruffle a few feathers in the derby, he did just that with a muscular and aggressive display that tormented Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand. And yet there is so much more to his game than just his strength.
His workrate was never-ending, his closing down of United’s defence and David De Gea relentless and his presence created more space for those around him. Add in his touch, vision and awareness and it looks as if we’ve signed genuine quality over the summer. At times, he seemed a tad eager to notch himself and he wasted a couple of decent chances, but he’ll settle down and his partnership with Aguero could be mouthwatering.
Overall, it was a total thrashing over our fierce rivals. They were unbelievably limited but that was, in part, due to our efforts in stamping our quality on the game. Had we not stopped when the fourth goal went it, it could have been even more embarrassing for United. As it is, there won’t be too many complaints about a quartet of goals, three points and yet another derby victory.