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Dreadful derby display highlights Pep Guardiola and Man City’s marked decline

There was a very familiar-looking coach in the visitors’ technical area but it was surely not Pep Guardiola.

Gung-ho Guardiola, fearless Pep, the manager for whom marauding attack is the be-all and end-all.

Yes, there was an onus on Manchester United to show more adventure – they were the home side after all, and they are Manchester United after all.

So there is no letting them off the hook.

But where was the City their fans and the neutrals have come to love?

And yes, they looked the more likely to win this quite astonishingly low-quality contest … but only just.

There was little to get excited about during a dreadful Manchester Derby

Guardiola, him of the five-substitute campaign, made only one change and that was like-for-like, Ferran Torres for Riyad Mahrez.

There was probably a time when, striving for the win, City might have finished the game with only three defenders on the field.

There was certainly a time when it was unimaginable City, chasing a victory, would finish a game with four defenders and two defensive midfielders.

Again, United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have felt more of a compunction to be daring but it was still a surprise to see City as unthreatening as this.

For Solskjaer, even considering United’s good recent derby record, this was a decent point, in view of their inconsistency at Old Trafford.

Never mind not knowing what United you are going to encounter from one game to the next, it is hard to predict what they are going to produce from one minute to the next.

But you probably could have guessed the nature of their approach to this particular task. Cautious.

Pep Guardiola and his side were unusually cautious in the match

And as said above, it was not as though City were overly adventurous.

Genius coach he might be but, to the layman and woman, it is hard to fathom why Guardiola opts for a central midfield pairing of Rodri and Fernandinho. Or Rodri and Gundogan, as it has been in some games.

They have been more solid defensively but so much of their attacking potency seems to be drained by this particular selection policy.

Basically, they look a man light in attack.

And for someone such as Kevin de Bruyne, that lessens his options.

The Belgian still found some fiendishly clever angles, not least when his first-time pass gave a wasteful Mahrez a great chance, but he was not at his beautifully destructive best.

Sorry, he was not allowed to be at his beautifully destructive best.

Then again, he was far from alone in that.

Even Kevin de Bruyne was largely unthreatening

If you were being generous, you could highlight a high level of defensive competence.

Apart from the odd blip, Harry Maguire was in commanding form. He might, indeed, be a little wooden from time to time but he reads the game well and produced a fine block to deny De Bruyne.

United’s full-backs were also relatively solid but their lack of attacking ambition typified this acutely disappointing occasion.

If ever there was a match that needed a 72,000-crowd, this was it.

In fact, any crowd.

This game was also a reminder of how much City miss a certain David Silva.

When Silva said his farewells after a magical decade, the impression given was of a great servant sailing into the sunset, knowing his halcyon days were behind him.

After all, there was an heir apparent in Phil Foden.

But Silva is proving irreplaceable and there were probably a couple seasons left in him.

Phil Foden was an unused substitute

His nous, his eye for the killer pass, his imagination, were all desperately missed in this sort of game.

Perhaps Foden could have provided it but we never got to find out.

It seems that Guardiola, the coach who has hailed Foden as the most exciting talent he has worked with, reckons that talent is only suitable for Champions League qualifiers.

Gareth Southgate sat in the stands and must, like the rest of us, have wondered why Foden did not get on.

And like the rest of us, wondered if this was really a Guardiola team, if this was really a modern Manchester derby.

Truly, one to forget.




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