It is incredibly difficult to remember an occasion when a Manchester United team has been so comprehensively outclassed.
Even when Sir Alex Ferguson’s side lost to Pep Guardiola’s outstanding Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final – ‘they do mesmerise you with the way they pass it,’ said the United boss afterwards – they at least scored and created chances.
There were some mid-1990s Champions League encounters with Marcello Lippi’s Juventus when United resembled boys against men – but after a while they grew and met the challenge.
Eric Bailly puts through his own net to set Manchester City on course to win at Old Trafford
Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw react with dismay as Bernardo Silva steals in for City’s second
And there have been some embarrassing scorelines in recent years – 6-1 against Manchester City in 2011, the same scoreline against Tottenham last season – but you still felt they were just off-days.
However, the 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool at Old Trafford last month and especially Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat to City have illustrated an enormous gulf in class between United and their rivals.
It brutally demonstrated just how far short Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team are of actually challenging for the Premier League title – despite some misguided optimism in the summer.
The writing is on the wall for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after another miserable performance
Any aspirations United had of challenging for the title already appear to be over as they sit nine points behind leaders Chelsea and six adrift of Manchester City
The losses also laid bare the fact United have been stuck in a reverse gear for some time now.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool and Pep Guardiola’s City are perfectly-calibrated machines, humming along in harmony to overpower opponents and win most of their games.
Even Chelsea have made huge strides in just a few months with Thomas Tuchel in charge.
But even after almost three years in the job, Solskjaer’s United still resemble a collection of individuals without any identifiable style of football or togetherness.
Here are just some of the shocking stats that emerged not just from Saturday’s mauling by City, but from recent trends with United.
Manchester United registered more shots on target against themselves (two) than they did at Manchester City’s goal
United’s one and only shot on target during the derby defeat was Cristiano Ronaldo’s sharp volley that was pushed out by Ederson with the score at 1-0. They didn’t manage another on target effort.
However, at the other end, Eric Bailly sliced Joao Cancelo’s cross into his own net to gift-wrap City their opener.
David de Gea was beaten by Eric Bailly but managed to prevent a Victor Lindelof own goal
Ederson pushed out a sharp volley by Cristiano Ronaldo – United’s only shot on target all game
Bailly may have spent a lot of time on the bench this season, having dropped to United’s fourth-choice centre-back, but surely he hasn’t forgotten how to clear the ball?
A few minutes later, Victor Lindelof almost suffered a similar fate but David de Gea managed to block his own goal attempt.
Manchester United managed just four touches in the opposition box – this is the club’s lowest tally in any match since Opta began recording this statistic in 2008
And, you’d imagine, their lowest tally for a good while before 2008 as well.
It is as good a reflection as any at how City completely bossed the match. Their penalty area was practically sealed off to United.
It’s indicative of United’s slide of late because they’ve beaten City several times under Solskjaer, who has shown he can outwit Guardiola more than once.
This time, however, even with Cristiano Ronaldo leading their attack, United simply couldn’t lay a glove on their rivals as move after move faltered, usually before they’d crossed half-way.
A comparison of touches and average position for Man United (left) and Man City (right) – United only had four touches of the ball inside City’s box with each player pinned back
All 10 of City’s outfield players registered more touches than any United player and City completed 762 passes (more than any team against United in the league since 2004)
It was ‘death by passing’ in the true Guardiola style. They attempted 832 passes during the match at Old Trafford and were successful with 762 of them.
On both counts, this was their highest return in the Premier League this season.
United, by contrast, tried 400 passes and completed 326 of them – unsurprisingly their lowest returns this season. It’s little wonder City enjoyed two-thirds possession over the 90 minutes.
But for every City player bar keeper Ederson to register more touches than their opponents just shows how United were going nowhere fast when in possession.
For the record, Ronaldo had a mere 27 touches.
Cristiano Ronaldo endured a frustrating afternoon as United struggled to get the ball to him
Manchester United’s passes (left) in comparison to the blur of City’s passes (right)
City defender Ruben Dias completed 12 passes in the final third – more than any United player
Such was United’s limited threat, even Ruben Dias felt confident enough to stride forward from the back. The fact he was able to contribute to City’s attack by pinging passes around United’s box speaks volumes for their dominance.
It’s now 14 games without a clean sheet at Old Trafford, the second-longest run in United’s history after 21 games in 1958-59
The last time United kept a clean sheet at home was on April 15 when they beat Granada 2-0 in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Europa League.
Their last home clean sheet in the Premier League was the 1-0 win over West Ham on March 14.
To put into this stat into context, the last time United were so porous defensively at Old Trafford, their squad had just been ravaged by the Munich Air Disaster, in which eight players died.
It’s now 14 matches since United kept a home clean sheet – their worst run since 1958-1959
United have suffered eight home defeats at Old Trafford this year – the most since 1989
2021 is rapidly turning into an Annus horribilis for United – they have lost at home to Manchester City (twice), Liverpool (twice), Sheffield United, Leicester City, West Ham and Aston Villa.
Back in 1989, they were defeated at home by Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City, Everton, Norwich City, Tottenham (twice) and Crystal Palace.
A certain manager by the name of Alex Ferguson, under pressure to deliver his first piece of silverware, was severely testing the patience of the fanbase.
By winning the FA Cup in 1990, Ferguson was able to embark on a dynasty of success. You suspect Solskjaer won’t be doing likewise.
Also, United have lost more home games (nine) since the beginning of last season than Crystal Palace (eight).
It was another afternoon to forget for United at Old Trafford – which is no longer a fortress
21 per cent of United’s home defeats in Premier League history have come under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Saturday’s loss was defeat No 13 in 55 home league games under Solskjaer. In the post-1992 era, they have lost a grand total of 63 home matches.
By way of comparison – Ferguson lost 34 of 405 home league games, or 8.4 per cent.
The days of Old Trafford being a fortress are long gone, that’s for sure.