Manchester United were mauled 6-3 by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, courtesy of hat-tricks from Erling Haaland and Phil Foden.
United grabbed three – a consolation prize really from Antony and Anthony Martial who came off the bench to score a brace.
The result has left the Red Devils languishing in seventh position while their city rivals have been propelled to second, just a point shy of league leaders Arsenal.
Here are three things we learned from United’s thumping at the hands of City.
Shambolic first-half display
Describing United’s showing in the first half as shambolic feels like a massive understatement. Erik ten Hag’s men were thoroughly outclassed and outdone in every aspect of the game in the opening 45 minutes.
The scoreline heading into the break, which stood at a pathetic 4-0, could be argued barely told the whole story of the first half.
The team was extremely disorganized and looked bereft of ideas or any imagination. The first period was rife with ceding possession and recklessness on the ball – mistakes that City were all too happy to capitalize on.
United barely stepped out of their own half and buckled under the pressure of the opposition’s intense press that kept them pegged in for large parts of the opening 45.
Ten Hag’s side hardly fashioned any clear-cut scoring opportunity and were reduced to scraps in terms of attacking forays into City territory.
Phil Foden was first on the scoresheet, beautifully converting a Bernardo Silva cut-back inside the box that left David de Gea with no chance whatsoever. The Englishman had a free run at the ball after successfully shaking off his marker, Christian Eriksen.
Minutes later Erling Haaland headed the ball into the back of the net from a corner, towering highest over the meek Eriksen. The Norwegian striker grabbed his second of the game soon after when playmaker Kevin de Bruyne found him with a sublime cross near United’s far post.
Foden scored the Red Devils’ fourth of the first half with Haaland this time playing the role of assistant.
What will infuriate United fans, some of whom were seen leaving the Etihad at halftime, was the ease with which Pep’s team carved both the midfield and the defence open. Reminiscent of the opening double defeats against Brighton and Brentford, the midfield was virtually non-existent with massive gaps all over that left the defenders too exposed and with large spaces to defend.
The United players looked devoid of any confidence against their vastly superior rivals and at times looked to have given up the fight. On another day, City could have been up by six or seven heading into the dressing room.
Ten Hag must respond appropriately
The United boss has over recent weeks become synonymous with not giving anything away with his actions and facial expressions. However, even he seemed exasperated in periods during the tie, his anger was visibly conspicuous both to his underperforming players and the cameras.
The Dutch coach, as he did after the Brentford disaster where he made his stars run for 13.8 km, must resort to somewhat similar tactics or methods to provoke a response from the players.
One thing that he should undoubtedly look to do is to make wholesale personnel changes.
Casemiro should walk into the side ahead of Scott McTominay. The Scotland international was a major culprit in the middle of the park where he failed spectacularly in his primary obligation to shield the back four.
McTominay gave the ball away on multiple occasions which put his teammates on the backfoot too often. However brilliant he has been in recent weeks and matches, he is simply not good enough and for United to progress, Casemiro must occupy said position from which he has enjoyed so much success in the past.
Bruno Fernandes, one could point out, should also not survive the onslaught that is sure to come. It beats logic why the Portuguese always seems to look for the killer ball even in the presence of a simpler and more precise option. He is especially wasteful on the ball and when he lacks inventiveness as seen today, he has the potential of being a liability.
Jadon Sancho was another who also had a below-par showing that must not go unpunished.
What is for sure is that whatever punitive action Ten Hag will choose to employ in this instance will be more than deserved.
United are still miles off from being decent/Plenty of work needs to be done
While no fan had any illusions about the amount of work that was on Ten Hag’s shoulders, today’s thrashing at the hands of United’s bitter rivals serves to fully expose the extent of what still needs to be done.
The Red Devils are far from being decent and competing for top honours, let alone sitting at the top table with the big boys in Europe.
A few wins on the bounce may have covered up what every supporter knows to be true, but a humbling of this magnitude will no doubt trigger a return to the drawing board.
Work needs to commence beyond the training ground but also in the boardroom with regard to recruitment and behind-the-scenes improvement.
What the 6-3 drubbing has made fundamentally clear is that the club is miles off success.