The sight of Nathan Redmond pulling up clutching his side with no-one near him summed up City’s night perfectly.
That Redmond had been one of the few bright spots of an otherwise thoroughly miserable evening merely rubbed salt into an already gaping wound as Manchester United’s second string put their City equivalents to the sword in the most clinical fashion possible. And it wasn’t pretty to watch.
Of even more concern than a thumping 4-0 defeat was the sickening second half injury suffered by Robert Snodgrass whose clash with Rafael Da Silva left him prostrate on the Old Trafford turf for ten minutes. The sight of him being fitted with a neck brace and oxygen mask while being strapped to a stretcher was horrific, although the post-match comments from the club suggest the damage to be less severe than first thought.
The actions of the United keeper, Anders Lindegaard, are worthy of a mention; the Dane – having saved Snodgrass’ original header – had the nous to move the clearly unconscious Scot into the recovery position. Sadly the Dane covered himself in rather more glory than some pockets of the Yellow Army who unbelievably chose to vilify the City winger while he was undergoing treatment. Truly shameful.
Chris Hughton – as expected – chose to ring the changes from Saturday’s draw with Cardiff with only Seb Bassong, Leroy Fer and Snodgrass remaining. Johan Elmander was handed the dubious honour of leading the line single-handely – not an enviable one with Vidic and Ferdinand for company – with Wes Hoolahan given the nod in his preferred ‘number 10’ role.
Alas it didn’t work. While Moyes chose to make a similar amount of changes his line-up still had a rather ominous look to it and City’s performance was more White Hart Lane than Emirates. The age hold problem of ball retention reared its ugly head – hot potato syndrome again kicking in – and solidity at the back was replaced by vulnerability.
To have a sniff at the self-titled ‘Theatre of Dreams’, one typically needs to put in a good shift which, in turn, needs to be supplemented with a dollop or two of good fortune. That City had neither from the word go pretty much sums it up.
Referee Kevin Friend proved he’s anything but to opposing teams in Manchester by awarding United the softest of soft penalties when Fer was adjudged to have tripped Adnan Januzaj. While the contact may have been slight, and it’s doubtful if the same decision would have been awarded in City’s favour, it’ll be a lesson leaned for the Dutchman who had no need to make the challenge.
With a new fire-breathing Scot now occupying the United dugout things are not about to get any easier for opposition teams with regard to referees. The last thing he needed was an excuse to award a penalty. We gave him one and it was a gift horse that Hernandez wasn’t about to ignore.
Sadly, from that moment the die was pretty much cast; the passing – when it did occur – was slow and laboured and, for all the brickbats hurled in the direction of Elmander, his existence was one that relied on scraps as opposed to quality service.
Wes and his twinkling toes were a shadow of their former selves – more a case of rustiness than past their sell by date (as some have suggested) – but our favourite little Irishman was no match for a United midfield that had clearly been well briefed by Moyse in terms of denying him time on the ball.
As a result of Elmander and Wes failing to get a foothold in the game City’s attacking threat was sporadic at best, with Redmond the only one posing a genuine threat to the Lindegaard goal.
The sight of Hernandez burying a header at the second attempt was effectively the death knell for City’s Capital One cup run of 2013 and the double-injury blow they suffered in the second half left them looking a very disjointed and dispirited outfit; the last twenty minutes every bit as painful as their White Hart Lane equivalents.
So… while most of us can live with the end of the cup run (if indeed three games constitutes a run) there were alas very few positives to gleam from last night. With the injuries mounting the weekend visit to the Etihad is looking colossal.
While the manager’s Norwich tenure will ultimately be judged by his ability, or otherwise, to stabilise City’s Premier League position – not by being able to conjure up a Capital One cup away win at Old Trafford – there’s also little doubt the outers and doubters are growing in number. Whether we agree with them or not is irrelevant; as their number increases so does the resonance of their collective voice.
Hughton needs wins – and he needs them quickly.