Humiliation was avoided, two weeks after being routed 5-0 by Liverpool, but it was another encounter to reinforce just how far Manchester United has slipped behind the Premier League’s elite.
It took only seven minutes of the Manchester derby to be in no doubt about the parlous state of United.
When Eric Bailly clumsily intercepted João Cancelo’s cross to divert the ball into his own net it was the start of another agonizing Old Trafford encounter with a now far superior rival.
The only surprise from Saturday’s derby was United escaping with a 2-0 loss to Manchester City after Bernardo Silva beat goalkeeper David De Gea at his near post in stoppage time.
Humiliation was avoided, two weeks after being routed 5-0 by Liverpool here, but it was another encounter to reinforce just how far United has slipped behind the Premier League’s elite.
City and United boast the world’s most expensive football squads — each assembled for more than $1 billion — but that wouldn’t be obvious watching in the lashing northern English rain.
On paper, six points now separate defending champion City in second from United in fifth. The gulf in quality, tactics and style look greater, with City effortlessly cruising to victory.
It wasn’t Pep Guardiola’s name City fans were singing at Old Trafford. They were mercilessly mocking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“Ole’s at the wheel,” they serenaded the United manager, sarcastically adopting the United fan song.
Solskjaer limps on in the job, with just one win from six league games. The only success came last Saturday against Tottenham, which acted swiftly to decide managerial change was required. And in firing Nuno Espirito Santo and hiring Antonio Conte, the north London club snapped up a potential replacement for Solskjaer.
The Norwegian couldn’t rely on being bailed out again by Cristiano Ronaldo, whose double salvaged a Champions League draw at Atalanta on Tuesday.
Instead Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure as the lack of intensity and pressing left him isolated up front. Only once did he come close to scoring what would have been an equalizer in the 26th minute, with a first-time volley from Ronaldo pushed wide by Ederson.
It electrified the crowd with the type of roar not heard again until the rarely used Donny van der Beek was brought on in the second half.
Boos, though, were once again the soundtrack of the home crowd at Old Trafford.
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