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’s not our greatest, I don’t know what we have now to do.”
Whereas Metropolis, who retained their six-point benefit over Liverpool, supplied perfection, United have 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 have been disgusted and disturbed by what they’d 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 Previous 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 yr later they have been league champions when Sergio Aguero’s injury-time winner over QPR pipped Ferguson’s facet on a dramatic remaining day.
That marked a momentous shift in fortunes as Metropolis have since lifted 4 league titles to that one in every of 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 sphere.
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, in the future, get this membership again to the place it deserves to be,” wrote keeper David De Gea on Twitter after the chastening loss.
“Right this moment was one other dangerous second in a tough season, however after 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 targets — 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 combat, and anxious it may 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 anticipate them absolutely to play with a little bit of pleasure, however that’s a mirrored image of the place the crew is in the meanwhile. 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 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 faux as a consequence 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 raise the facet since changing Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in November.
That’s apparent and can solely develop wider except motion is taken this summer time to deal with a scarcity of first-team high quality, rebuild confidence and launch these not clearly conscious of simply what is anticipated 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 gained all three of his conferences with Metropolis on the Etihad as United boss — and there are new scapegoats aplenty at Previous Trafford throughout 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 purpose, however his means and strengths are considerably unsuited — or under-appreciated — to this facet and he seems to be set to depart in the summertime on a free switch.
Additionally below 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 improper choices and difficult for a top-four place as an alternative 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 want to be winners once more.