Over the years, I’ve seen United get a good leathering a few times. The first thrashing I remember United getting was at Goodison Park in October 1984 when a rampant Everton team, who’d go on to win the title that season, beat United 5-0. I remember a title chasing United side being beaten 4-1 by Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford on New Year’s Day 1992 courtesy of a Dennis Bailey hat trick. The day/night before was Alex Ferguson’s fiftieth birthday and with United having a 5PM kick off the following day, there was a lot of innuendo and rumour as to how the United team had spent New Year’s Eve. On the day itself, a usually very good United team were appalling, losing heavily to a side they should have comfortably beaten.
In the Autumn of 1996, Newcastle United beat the Reds 5-0. That day, Newcastle were worthy winners but anybody who remembers that match knows that United were unlucky to lose 5-0. It was, as Ferguson said at the time, a blip and the end of season league table proved him right (this was the season, 1996-1997, that Liverpool, finished fouth in a two horse race). The same can be said about the time that United lost 4-0 at Anfield in September 1990 and 4-1 at Old Trafford, nineteen years later. Yes, the better team won but the results weren’t a true reflection of how United played, it was just one of those days.
A newly promoted City beat United 5-1 in September 1989, in a day and a game that no fan of either side will ever forget. United that day were that bad that they made a pretty poor City side look like world beaters. In March 2004, City beat United 4-1 in United’s first appearance at what was then called (I think) Eastlands. In my opinion, the result was a travesty, just another one of them occasional days when United had plenty of the game and created plenty of chances without finishing them off. City took their chances and it just summed up United’s day when Sean Wright-Phillips casually chipped in City’s fourth in the last minute. That season, Arsenal won the title without losing a league game, United would go on to win the F.A. Cup for the, to date, last time, beating City and Arsenal en route to Cardiff.
The 5-1 in 1989 was, I thought, a once in lifetime day. Not even the most outlandish, bitter or deluded blue of my aquaintance ever thought anything like that would ever happen again, neither did I. Every one of my fellow reds knew that City were no longer the laughing stock. We all knew yesterday was gonna be a hard game but no red or blue, in their wildest nightmares or dreams saw this coming.
I’ve seen United play and ultimately lose valiantly to the mid 1980s Juventus team of Michel Platini, Paulo Rossi and Zbigniew Boniek (amongst others). I saw (virtually) the same United side destroy a Barcelona side that had Bernd Schuster and Diego Maradonna three weeks prior to the Juventus game. I watched United convincingly beat at least two great Liverpool sides in the 1980s and twice beat the so called invincibles of Arsenal in 2004. I saw Barcelona of Stoichcov, Bakero and Romario rip to pieces, a depleted, due to UEFA’s draconian foreigner rule, United side in 1994. That night, I think the average age of United subs bench was fifteen and three quarters* and those who were on the pitch weren’t much older. Whilst Barcelona can only play/beat what’s put in front of them, the outcome, 4-0, for me was farcical.
I’ve seen United well and deservedly beaten a few times. I’ve only ever seen United outclassed three times in my thirty years of watching them. First time was at the European cup final, against Barcelona in Rome, 2009, the second time was against the same team, same occasion in May this year and the third time was yesterday. With opportunities made and Silva rampant, six was a mercy. As much as United could and should’ve got double figures against Arsenal recently, City, if they’d have taken all their chances yesterday wouldn’t have been far shy of it either. Today, I’ve heard commentators and read match reports that said when Ballotelli passed City into the lead, it was against the run of play. In regards to possession percentages and what-have-you, they’re probably right but at no point did I ever think that City were under pressure. They soaked up United’s early possession with an efficiency that Jose Mourinho would admire. Going forward with Ballotelli, Aguero and the outstanding Silva, City looked frightening. United’s back four looked terrified of Silva but worst of all, United’s midfield didn’t exist. Everybody knows that Roy Keane’s never been replaced, yesterday, it was exposed in the most brutal possible way as there’s no way United would’ve lost so emphatically if Keane was in that midfield.
Alex Ferguson yesterday played Jonny Evans in the back four whilst leaving Nemanja Vidic and Phil Jones on the bench. When Ballotelli done Evans like a kipper in the first couple of minutes of the second half, which lead to Evans sending off, that folly was painfully shown up. At the time, whilst City were in control of the game, it was still only 1-0 and obviously retrievable, down to ten men against a team as organised as City, it was suicide. Jonny Evans is clearly not up to level required to play in a team of United’s ambition and I don’t believe he’ll ever be trusted again in an important game after yesterday’s debacle. Tomorrow night, United play Aldershot, it’s a blessing to have a first team game so soon after yesterday’s match and I for one, can’t wait for it to kick off.
On the bright side, in every season that I remember United getting a good hammering, at the end of every one of them seasons’, there was a trophy on United’s honours list. Yesterday was bad, but red brothers and sisters, when all’s said and done, it was three points dropped in October and we all know how long a football season is.
* A slight exaggeration, not by much though