Within the last quarter-hour of Manchester United’s 4-1 defeat at Manchester Metropolis, the hosts had 92 p.c 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 have now to do.”
Whereas Metropolis, who retained their six-point benefit over Liverpool, provided 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 could have been no shock to see white handkerchiefs raised aloft by their offended followers on the finish of this embarrassment on the Etihad.
They had been disgusted and disturbed by what they’d witnessed — and sadly typically 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United used to have a banner at Outdated Trafford taunting the variety of years their neighbors had didn’t win a trophy.
It ended at 35 when Metropolis received 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 last day.
That marked a momentous shift in fortunes as Metropolis have since lifted 4 league titles to that one among United — and the Crimson 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.
“Immediately was one other dangerous second in a troublesome season, however once we nonetheless have this shirt to defend we is not going to 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 provide the scoreline a greater reflection of proceedings.
It was unforgivable, particularly to former United gamers used to seeing extra aptitude and struggle, 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 isn’t any hiding place in top-level sport. You count on them certainly to play with a little bit of delight, however that’s a mirrored image of the place the crew is in the meanwhile. They’re to date 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 ways.
He used a false 9 in Bruno Fernandes, aggressive urgent and, in a good first-half, it virtually labored.
However this fashion is an artwork kind and United’s regarded pretend because of their defensive vulnerability and lack of ability to take care of 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 good Belgian was inspirational and ably supported by an aesthetic forged from again to entrance.
United 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 elevate the aspect since changing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.
That’s apparent and can solely develop wider except motion is taken this summer time to handle a scarcity 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 adequate or don’t care sufficient.”
Solskjaer notably received all three of his conferences with Metropolis on the Etihad as United boss — and there are new scapegoats aplenty at Outdated Trafford through the present malaise.
Be it the 37-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo for failing to repeat the performances — or stay as much as expectations — that created a footballing legend. He missed the 187th derby with a hip damage that Rangnick needed to defend, amid debate about whether or not it was true or not.
Then there’s Paul Pogba. Little doubt gifted as he confirmed in aiding Jadon Sancho’s objective, however his capacity and strengths are considerably unsuited — or under-appreciated — to this aspect and he appears to be like set to depart in the summertime on a free switch.
Additionally beneath 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 indicate 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 choices and difficult for a top-four place as an alternative of main trophies.
United’s title and model will all the time stay sturdy, however they now lack the DNA of these profitable groups of previous. They should reset, and rediscover and restore that dynamism and want to be winners once more.