Manchester United 0 Manchester City 3 comment: Beleaguered Tom Cleverley way out of his depth against City class at Old Trafford

England midfielder made his first start in exactly one month for United

Edin Dzeko is no Denis Law, yet his goals on Wednesday night were a symbolic reminder of the last time City enjoyed this kind of imperious dominance over their neighbours. Law’s back heel on this turf sent United spiralling out of English football’s top flight and City into paroxysms of delight.

Forty years on, the dynamics of the Premier League make it all-but impossible for United to experience relegation again. The fundamentals have changed at City, too. No longer content to run off into the Manchester night with bragging rights alone, City haven stolen United’s power.

They are the club chasing the big prizes, while United adjust to reduced circumstances, if not in the second tier of the game, certainly a level beneath City in the top flight. City manager Manuel Pellegrini expected to win this contest and he did, without breaking step.

Read more: Ferguson feels the wrath of United fans
Rooney admits Old Trafford 'fear factor' has gone
Moyes has 'made a couple of signings that haven't worked out' - Scholes

If it is any consolation for David Moyes, defeat No 10 of a torrid season was by no means the worst. This was no cause for shame. His team showed some fight and he demonstrated his readiness to adapt when it was so obviously going wrong.

 

The removal of the over-matched Tom Cleverley at half time was a kindness to a player who has clearly found his level. And this is not it. Cleverley epitomised the difference between the teams, one-paced, bereft of confidence and risk averse. Manchester lightweight boxer Anthony Crolla was introduced to the crowd half an hour before kick off. Crolla, a lifelong United fan, is involved in derby of his own next month taking on City supporting Manc John Murray in a world title eliminator.

Looking at the team sheet, the thought occurred he might be a better option than Cleverley, if his selection was predicated on shackling the marvellous David Silva. One punch might have been enough. Cleverley never got close to landing one... mind you, he was not alone in that.

Edin Dzeko celebrates his second goal of the night Edin Dzeko celebrates his second goal of the night In one sense, Cleverley has done his manager a great service this season, absorbing the stick that might have come the way of Moyes. The reluctance of the majority to condemn Moyes for the enduring disappointment of his short reign diverts the pent up criticism Cleverley’s way. His reward was to be given a start in a match of huge importance.

Despite the endorsement of Sir Bobby Charlton beforehand, insisting that the board had made the right appointment, each backward step imperils Moyes’s prospects of seeing this engagement through much further. 

United were a goal down before Cleverley had touched the ball, but that fact applied to most of his team-mates. On the plus side, they kept out Silva’s first attempt. Cleverley’s pass into the inside right channel was not anticipated by Danny Welbeck, who broke instead through the middle, drawing a pained expression from his team-mate.

Read more: Manchester United 0 Manchester City 3 match report
Comment: Cleverley way out of his depth
Dzeko: Win was crucial for Premier League title hopes

There had to be a degree of sympathy for the lad, asked to fill a slot down the right that fell half way between attack and defence. Not for the first time, Moyes was seeking insurance when he should have been backing his team to take the opposition on.

City did to United what Barcelona did to them, which begged the question why they were unable to summon the same arrogance when it mattered in Europe. Failure in the Champions League points to a lingering esteem issue when confronted by the major powers in Europe that still needs to be addressed.

Observing Silva co-ordinating the best of everything in that fearsome opening salvo, a mesmeric presence playing across the frontline just behind Dzeko, it is hard to imagine that City will be forever caught in the headlights of Munich, Madrid and Barcelona.

This is the role earmarked at United for Juan Mata, who is just as inventive but the locomotion around him had nothing like the fluid rhythm that kept Silva in business. But then again, there is no Yaya Tour or Samir Nasri in this United team.

There was a point 12 minutes from the end of the first half, when Fernandinho made a rare error misjudging the flight of the ball and heading into space down the right. Rooney looked for the raiding red shirt that would have been there not too long ago. Instead, there was Cleverley labouring in no-man’s land, neither here nor there. Again, this was not wholly his fault but a consequence of how the team was set up and the job he was asked to do. It is all right panning Olympiakos and running through West Ham but this is the ultimate test of a manager’s credentials; to plot your way past the best.

With five minutes of the half remaining after United had enjoyed their best spell of the evening, Moyes had the baton out in the technical area waving Cleverley into position to take the ball off his defence. The player duly responded, turned and passed directly to the opposition. His team was under pressure needlessly and Moyes twitched sideways as if stabbed with a cattle prod.

This was the moment his night ended. It might be the end of his United career as Moyes ponders a clear-out at the season’s end, assuming he is also not on the way out. Cleverley’s defence has been to claim that his Spanish stylistic inflections are not appreciated. With that one passage of play, he ran a sword through that bull.

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?