Man Utd 1 – 6 Man City: As One Sided As 1-6?

When you hear 6 – 1, you immediately think the game was one sided, with two completely mismatched teams. However, there are some games where the score can be very misleading, such as this (also the QPR 1 – 0 Chelsea game from the same day, in which Chelsea had the better play, despite being 2 players down for most of the game – more on that later).

Game Time Line:

So if the game had finished at the 88th minute, the score would have been 1 – 3 to Man City, which would surely have been somewhat excuseable given the sending off. Manchester City scored 3 goals in the last 5 minutes of the game.

Lets take a look at a some charts for a couple of key areas during the various phases of the game.

So, generally, City were ahead of Man Utd for most of the game, however most of the charts show United peaking around half time (the 31-45 and 46-60 zones), and just beginning to edge City. It was only in the last two sectors City stretched ahead.


Here the charts give a slightly clearer picture of how the game changed.

In terms of total passes played, pass completion rate and passes in the final third, Man Utd were pretty much ahead in the first half.

From the sending off (47th minute) United’s stats declined.


Pretty clear that United struggled to both deal with City and give themselves a chance after the sending off, and this could be put down to the formations used. The graphics below show the average player positions for the first half.

Broadly speaking, United played a 4-4-2, and City more of a 4-2-2-2 (or a narrow variant of 4-4-2). Note the space between Evans/Ferdinad and Anderson/Fletcher.

In the period following the red card, the average positions were as follows:

For United, Fletcher went to right back, and Rooney into centre midfield, lining up in a 4-4-1. City’s average position changed slightly to a 4-2-3-1 ish, with Aguero linking up with Silva, Balotelli playing more centrally.

It then took Sir Alex Ferguson 15 minutes to make a change, in which Jones replaced Anderson, then 4 minutes later Hernandez replaced Nani. Jones went to right back, Fletcher back into midfield, Welbeck on the left, Young to the Right and Hernandez up front, giving:

Full backs still pushing on and wide, when City were in a position they could afford to leave an extra player forward, together with no midfield cover for the defence was the biggest downfall, but I suppose Ferguson had to gamble to get a goal.

Lets contrast the reaction of Sir Alex to that of Andre Villas Boas of Chelsea.


(left: up to first red card, right: second half)

Against QPR, Chelsea found themselves 0 – 1 down after 10 minutes, and 2 players down after just 41 minutes, yet still finished the game with more shots, more passes, higher pass completion rate, higher possession and more crosses than the opposition.

Having had Bosingwa sent off after 33 minutes, AvB replaced Sturridge with Ivanovic just 2 minutes later, in a bid to counter QPR’s biggest threat, Shaun Wright-Phillips. Then when Drogba was sent off on 41 minutes, Mata was replaced with Anelka to give a focal point.

Now finding themselves with only 9 men, 4 at the back wasnt feasable, so Mikel dropped into the defence, Cole and Ivanovic pushed up, Cole particularly almost playing in midfield.

Gaps Between the Lines

This was another game in which Man Utd play only two central midfielders, and their defence was exposed.

Probably 3 of the goals, and maybe even the red card, could have been prevented had United played a specific player in front of the defence.

Problem Area – Evra

The biggest problem though would appear to be Patrice Evra. Four of the goals came down his side of the pitch, and 12 of the 17 chances City created:

Evra also conceded a few fouls down his side, two in a dangerous area:

The major errors he made though were ‘ball watching’ – not knowing where the player is going behind him, getting sucked in and leaving space – and poor positioning.

Here he is concentrating too much on the ball and has lost track of the player behind him (this was the first goal)

And again:

Here he has been dragged to the right side, leaving the space shown in the yellow box. He should have been positioned by the yellow mark, although part of the reason he has been dragged over is Evans has gone too far to the right and Ferdinand has moved to cover him – poor play from the whole back 4:

Here he gets sucked in to the ball, losing track of the runner.

Same thing again:

For the second goal, he is too slow to close, and stands too far off, Richards – standing around 6 yards off him, doing little to prevent a cross:

For the next goal, he gets a littlle closer, but puts in a poor attempt to stop the cross waving his leg at it, and the ball went between his legs:

In the play below, he is slow to recover position, bearly breaking a jog:

And below he has let the attacker run off him:

And here he is some 20 + yards beind play in the bottom left:

And again, this time well off the screen still:

2nd Problem Area – Midfield Cover

A big reason that has been well documented this season for the high number of shots conceded by Man Utd (4th highest in the league) has been the lack of a dedicated screening midfielder, leaving space between the lines.

Below (kindly highlighted by BBC Match of the Day) shows the large space left, which Silva (of all players!) is left free:

Again we see big space between the lines, this time with Ferdinand forced to come out with the attacker, leaving a big gap to be exploited between Evra / Smalling:

And again Ferdinand has been dragged out:


A poor day in the office for a few Man United players, the result that all have been fearing would be coming soon. I feel the result is a little harsh on Man Utd and generous on Man City based on the run of play, but just stands to highlight what can happen when one team has several players making consistent mistakes and the other has a number of players on form (particularly £200m worth of talent!).

Is this the beginning of the end for them? I would expect a few changes for the next couple of games, and they will bounce back soon enough.

Keywords: Man Utd, Manchester United, Man City, Manchester City, Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand, Chelsea, Andre Villas Boas, Tactics, Team Analysis, Premier League


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