Within the remaining quarter-hour of Manchester United’s 4-1 defeat at Manchester Metropolis, the hosts had 92 % possession.
It got here in a second half of such dominance that Pep Guardiola mentioned of his Premier League leaders: “If it isn’t our greatest, I don’t know what we now have to do.”
Whereas Metropolis, who retained their six-point benefit over Liverpool, supplied perfection, United had been pitiful as they demonstrated as soon as extra how far they’ve fallen from their earlier standing as kings of English soccer.
Within the custom of protesting Actual Madrid supporters, it might have been no shock to see white handkerchiefs raised aloft by their indignant followers on the finish of this embarrassment on the Etihad.
They had been disgusted and disturbed by what that they had witnessed — and sadly usually have felt these feelings since their final Premier League title win in 2013 and Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
United used to have a banner at Outdated Trafford taunting the variety of years their neighbors had did not win a trophy.
It ended at 35 when Metropolis gained the FA Cup in 2011 — and a 12 months later they had been league champions when Sergio Aguero’s injury-time winner over QPR pipped Ferguson’s aspect on a dramatic remaining day.
That marked a momentous shift in fortunes as Metropolis have since lifted 4 league titles to that one among United — and the Pink Devils’ empire has crumbled as their Abu Dhabi-owned rivals have created a dynasty.
Now United are being mocked on and off the sector.
As Metropolis followers proudly show their very own banner — “Sheikh Mansour Manchester Thanks You for 10 Nice Years” — it has highlighted a decade of dominance to distinction United’s decline.
“We are going to, someday, get this membership again to the place it deserves to be,” wrote keeper David De Gea on Twitter after the chastening loss.
“At the moment was one other dangerous second in a troublesome season, however after we nonetheless have this shirt to defend we won’t hand over.”
However hand over they did on Sunday as Algerian Riyad Mahrez claimed two objectives — taking his season’s tally to 21 — within the second interval to present the scoreline a greater reflection of proceedings.
It was unforgivable, particularly to former United gamers used to seeing extra aptitude and combat, and anxious it might take a very long time for them to return to the highest.
“There are gamers on the market who shouldn’t play for Manchester United once more,” mentioned former captain Roy Keane.
“There is no such thing as a hiding place in top-level sport. You count on them certainly to play with a little bit of pleasure, however that’s a mirrored image of the place the crew is for the time being. They’re up to now behind different groups.”
Oscar Wilde as soon as wrote that “imitation is the sincerest type of flattery” and interim boss Ralf Rangnick tried to repeat Guardiola’s playbook together with his beginning line-up and techniques.
He used a false 9 in Bruno Fernandes, aggressive urgent and, in a good first-half, it virtually labored.
However this model is an artwork kind and United’s appeared pretend as a consequence of their defensive vulnerability and incapacity to keep up such depth for the entire match like their opponents.
In Kevin De Bruyne, Metropolis too had a Rembrandt to create a masterpiece.
Displaying the mixed qualities of Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, the sensible Belgian was inspirational and ably supported by an aesthetic solid from again to entrance.
United now not have the personnel or aura to match that — and desperately want somebody with Keane’s ardour, management and drive proper now.
“There’s a hole between the 2 groups,” admitted Rangnick, who has struggled to raise the aspect since changing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.
That’s apparent and can solely develop wider until motion is taken this summer season to handle an absence of first-team high quality, rebuild confidence and launch these not clearly conscious of simply what is predicted of a United participant.
As Peter Schmeichel, who performed for each United and Metropolis, added: “Far too many gamers are both not ok or don’t care sufficient.”
Solskjaer notably gained all three of his conferences with Metropolis on the Etihad as United boss — and there are new scapegoats aplenty at Outdated Trafford throughout the present malaise.
Be it the 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo for failing to repeat the performances — or dwell as much as expectations — that created a footballing legend. He missed the 187th derby with a hip harm that Rangnick needed to defend, amid debate about whether or not it was true or not.
Then there’s Paul Pogba. Little question gifted as he confirmed in aiding Jadon Sancho’s objective, however his capability and strengths are considerably unsuited — or under-appreciated — to this aspect and he seems set to depart in the summertime on a free switch.
Additionally underneath scrutiny is £85 million center-back Harry Maguire, whose unconvincing shows have prompted questions on his place within the crew, not to mention as captain.
He mentioned afterwards: “The lads are devastated in there. We all know that we’ve obtained to go on a run, we’ve obtained to go and decide up win after win and we’re greater than able to doing it. However we’ve obtained to point out it on the pitch.”
The blame for United’s issues doesn’t relaxation with Maguire, Ronaldo or Pogba alone, however as a crew and membership.
They’ve spent sufficient, however been left behind by Metropolis and Liverpool by making unsuitable selections and difficult for a top-four place as a substitute of main trophies.
United’s identify and model will at all times stay robust, however they now lack the DNA of these profitable groups of outdated. They should reset, and rediscover and restore that dynamism and need to be winners once more.