Within the closing 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 stated of his Premier League leaders: “If it’s not our greatest, I don’t know what we’ve got 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 will 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 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United used to have a banner at Outdated Trafford taunting the variety of years their neighbors had did not win a trophy.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 facet on a dramatic closing day.
That marked a momentous shift in fortunes as Metropolis have since lifted 4 league titles to that certainly one of 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 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, at some point, 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 unhealthy second in a tough 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 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,” stated former captain Roy Keane.
“There isn’t 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 group is for the time being. They’re thus far 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 along with his beginning line-up and ways.
He used a false 9 in Bruno Fernandes, aggressive urgent and, in a good first-half, it nearly labored.
However this type is an artwork type and United’s appeared pretend because of their defensive vulnerability and incapacity 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 a cultured solid 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 carry 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 an absence 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 Outdated Trafford through 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 doubt gifted as he confirmed in aiding Jadon Sancho’s aim, however his skill and strengths are considerably unsuited — or under-appreciated — to this facet and he appears to be like 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 group, not to mention as captain.
He stated afterwards: “The lads are devastated in there. We all know that we’ve received to go on a run, we’ve received to go and choose up win after win and we’re greater than able to doing it. However we’ve received 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 group and membership.
They’ve spent sufficient, however been left behind by Metropolis and Liverpool by making fallacious selections 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 outdated. They should reset, and rediscover and restore that dynamism and want to be winners once more.