Manchester City's all-round superiority over United exaggerated by Kolarov's attacking intent

Michael Regan

Aleksandar Kolarov's complementing overlapping runs in advance of Samir Nasri's narrow movement was the key feature which allowed Manchester City to take the ascendancy in their 4-1 derby romp.

The more you allow the player to attempt a certain move, the more likely it is at some point the move will come off, and so it proved decisive for Manchester City in their 4-1 shellacking of local rivals Manchester United.

Alexsandar Kolarov would not have featured had Gael Clichy been fit and neither would have Samir Nasri if not for David Silva's absence but Manuel Pellegrini's double injury blow conspired to create a match-winning partnership, even if the actual relationship was fairly obvious. Nasri drifted inside, and Kolarov motored forward on the overlap -- the sort of link-up play we've become enormously accustomed to, but was still enough to carve Manchester United open repeatedly inside the opening minutes.

The first warning sign was Kolarov's low cross across goal only half-convincingly cleared by Nemanja Vidic, after City had quickly switched the play across field from the right, but the more decisive move came when Nasri was directly involved in the build-up -- the Frenchman held off the challenge of Chris Smalling on the edge of the penalty area, waited for the City full-back to charge upfield, before releasing the ball into his path so that the Serbian could find Sergio Aguero unmarked inside the six-yard box.

Kolarov isn't a particularly talented player and his defensive weaknesses meant much of the pre-match discussion suggested he'd be a liability rather than strength for City -- and indeed, even his cross for Aguero was underwhelming, supremely difficult for the Argentine to make anything of, save for the wonderfully improvised flick-volley -- but in allowing him to get forward so frequently in advance of Nasri's narrow positioning, United allowed City to get a stranglehold on the match from which David Moyes' side never recovered.

The trouble with derbies and big games early on in the season is that sides are often yet to find their fluency -- if not obvious in the stop-start scoreless draw between United and Chelsea three weeks ago, then blatantly evident here -- and that too was a decisive factor. For all their four goals, City weren't particularly impressive here, lacking fluency in their build-up play and relying on awful lapses of concentration from United's defence, with Rio Ferdinand particularly culpable.

There was an unmistakeable lack of cohesion throughout the away side's defensive structure. The two banks of four template has served both Ferguson and Moyes well, but the gap between United's three bands was staggering at times. Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young were often found pressing City's central defenders, but the rest of the side was not as keen to defend so proactively, leading to an incredible disjoint between the lines of midfield and attack.

This in turn allowed Yaya Toure and Fernandinho to stride forward purposefully on the ball from their deep-lying positions and assert City's dominance in possession. This of course tended to allow space between their own lines that Rooney frequently dropped into to pick up the ball - and in turn dragging Vincent Kompany out of the defence - but this wouldn't have been a huge concern for Pellegrini, because Rooney was only ever picking up the ball in isolated positions, with little support from United's midfield.

The odd way in which United's 4-4-2 was spread across the pitch was exacerbated by Ashley Young's shocking performance, borne both of the winger's mediocre talent but also of the lack of fluency in United's attacking play. There was just too much space between the individual positioning of the players, which didn't lend favourably to incisive attacking moves -- and in turn, allowed City to run rampant, if only because Kolarov managed to produce a few good crosses in the moments he got forward.

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