The 188th Manchester derby did not go as planned for Manchester United or Erik ten Hag. Despite scoring three goals away at Manchester City, the Reds were soundly defeated 6-3 by Pep Guardiola’s side in the Premier League duel on Sunday afternoon.
City dominated the game and deserved to win, with Erling Haaland and Phil Foden both scoring hat-tricks for the reigning champions. United scored three consolation goals in the second half, including a fantastic shot from Antony and a brace from Anthony Martial, who returned from injury.
United entered the game having won four consecutive Premier League games, including victories over Liverpool and Arsenal. The Reds had made significant progress in previous weeks, but Guardiola’s side dominated.
While the host team threatened to run away with the game in the early stages, Ten Hag’s team managed to score three times and guarantee the game ended with a more respectable result than it appeared.
After the game, Reds star Gary Neville argued that it was critical for his old side to finish well and get on the scoresheet, reflecting on something legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson used to advise his players on the rare occasions when they were trailing badly.
“The two late goals, I nearly said it in commentary, Sir Alex Ferguson… when we were getting beaten 3-0, 4-0, 5-0, he’d come in and say ‘you got a goal,’ and it was 3-1, 4-1, 5-1, that’s important, never forget, it’s important, always finish the game with something that takes you into the next game,” Neville said after the game on The Gary Neville podcast.
“The reality is that you have to show up next week, as he [Ferguson] used to say all the time, and I never listened because when you lose 3-1, you’re disappointed in how you lost.
“I believe it matters that Manchester United scored two late goals; I believe it will irritate Pep a little bit – just a little bit – 6-3, he’ll think, ‘that’s not what this game was about, it was a 6-0 or a 6-1.’ I believe you can point out some minor details.
“The major thing for United is what happens over the next two or three weeks, and how people react to it. It’s a blip on the back of a period of being dormant, not playing, a peculiar period for the entire country, followed by the international break when players return late.
“There are things, and I’m not making excuses; there are no excuses based on what I’ve seen out there today, but I don’t believe it’s a major rot in the past. I anticipate them to feel better, heal quickly, and leave that one behind them.
“I don’t think that’s what we’ll see; if it is, I’ll be sitting here saying it’s the start of a significant problem that’s building; I don’t think I’ve seen that from United today. They replied in the second half and encountered something unusual in Haaland and City.”
Ferguson, who won 13 Premier League titles during his tenure at Old Trafford, was frequently lauded for his man-management abilities, and Ten Hag and his players should take note of Neville’s revelation about the former United manager. The Reds had been in terrific form before the Manchester derby, and while the result was undoubtedly disappointing, it is critical that United maintain their positive attitude as they prepare for a hectic schedule ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.
With a Europa League match against Omonia on Thursday night, the Reds will not have to wait long to make things right from Sunday. It is critical that they recognize how disappointing the loss to City was, but also take some credit for coming back in the game, albeit with consolation goals.