Arms crossed and head down, David Moyes stood grimly on the edge of his technical area in his Manchester United suit. There was no hiding place as home fans in the Etihad Stadium bounced around him. The scoreboard read Manchester City 4, Manchester United 0 and still over a third of the game remained.
“We want 10,” City fans hollered. Before long, they would be singing Moyes’s name in jest and advising Wayne Rooney – United’s best player by a distance – that he should have gone to Chelsea.
Moyes’s men started so badly against an unrelenting City side that pre-match talk of a battle between the two midfield giants, Yaya Toure and Marouane Fellaini, appeared misplaced.
Fellaini did appear, on paper, to have a small edge over the slightly shorter Toure – but only in height.
“I’m glad we’ve got Fellaini today,” offered Paddy Crerand, the Red-eyed former United midfielder before the match. “We’ve needed someone against Toure in recent seasons.”
Michael Carrick talked of his midfield partner settling in well since his £27.5 million (Dh161.6m) move from Everton earlier this month, of his “presence” in matches.
Such talk was irrelevant.
It meant nothing to the 3,000 United fans suffering in the away end. They were not unreasonable in expecting better than seeing their team – the current English champions – completely annihilated by Manuel Pellegrini’s side. United only began to threaten after City had scored four.
City’s attackers were superb for an hour, yet when he was not joining in with those attacks, Toure was a midfield colossus behind them.
City fans will not be surprised. Along with Vincent Kompany, the Ivorian has been their most consistent performer for the past three seasons. Peerless this term, he is deployed in a deeper role similar to the one he occupied at former club Barcelona, yet has still weighed in with four goals so far this term, two from free-kicks.
Toure was already the game’s best player before he scored City’s second in the 45th minute. As Samir Nasri took the corner, Toure lost his marker Fellaini by such a measure that the Belgian was floundering with Sergio Aguero as Alvaro Negredo directed a header towards the back post. The unmarked Toure poked the ball in with his knee. Moyes admitted it was a killer blow.
Time and again, Toure drove City forward as Fellaini and Carrick struggled to protect their defence. He had more touches than any player on the pitch and covered more ground, too. Fernandinho’s effective presence as a holding midfielder allowed Toure to foray forward into the positions behind the strikers, which he occupied when he first arrived in England.
Fellaini was a bystander by comparison. That Toure scored from a corner as Fellaini tussled with the significantly shorter Aguero said plenty.
Like his team, Fellaini improved when his team were already 4-0 down. His 67th-minute shot was struck well, but it was too little, too late.
“If the team did a good performance, it was because of the individual high level from players like Yaya and Sergio Aguero,” Pellegrini said.
After the match, Toure was handed his man-of-the-match award by Kompany, who spoke like a diplomat but smiled like a Cheshire cat.