Sport

Man Utd are right back at square one again after a promising start under Solskjaer

IT was seven years ago next week when Vincent Kompany rose to head home the biggest goal in Manchester derby history.

Forget the Denis Law backheel in 1974. That didn’t matter as it turned out, United would have gone down anyway.


No, Kompany’s goal in the run-in to that incredible finale in the 2011-12 season was seismic.

It put the destiny of that season’s title in City’s hands and showed the power base was shifting.

United, even under Sir Alex Ferguson, could be vulnerable.

While it would take until the closing seconds of the final game to finally land the trophy for Roberto Mancini’s side, they had to win that derby on April 30.

Suddenly, the butt of jokes for so long in Manchester were laughing — the noisy neighbours had reason to shout.

A 44-year wait for the title was over. City were here and here to stay.

Yes Sir Alex would bounce back the following season to wrestle the crown back, but City had claimed a winning mentality.

They knew what it took.

That Monday night the tension in the air was palatable. At last there was a derby that meant more than bragging rights, one where the title was on the line.

No Premier League game has attracted greater overseas TV coverage.

How we thought then it would be the first of many such encounters.

CITY STRIDE CLEAR

Matches where the three points gained on either side would mean so much more than the puffed-out chests of a red or blue persuasion in the office or factory the next day.

Manchester would be the epicentre of title struggles from then on.

It has never materialised. City are heading for their third title since that 2012 triumph while United continue to go backwards.

Who would have thought when Fergie bowed out six years ago that the title would not even come close to Old Trafford again by now.

That City would stride so far ahead of them so games like last night would see United merely trying to deny their rivals a title rather than grabbing it for themselves.

The side that had played so badly in their 4-0 horror show at Goodison did manage to lift themselves for last night’s derby — well half of it.

Everton away, nah forget it. Don’t fancy it. City at home with them going for the title? Oh yeah we’ll give that a go for a bit.

It is the sort of attitude Roy Keane was referring to pre-match on TV in assessing the current situation at Old Trafford.

For Keane and other ex-United stars in the great Sir Alex teams every game demanded the utmost and they gave it. Too few players in this dreadful nine-game run have done that, even in the two games they won.

Perhaps that was why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the side to the Old Cliff Training Ground for a warm-up yesterday to get some of that old magic instilled to them.

Because if they don’t get that back, this will be no short-term situation United are in.

Right now you would not put a penny on them challenging next season. Solskjaer admitted as much in the lead up to this match when he said: “You cannot expect things to happen overnight and we know that.”

The problem now is United fans have been waiting six years and four managers for signs of hope they can rule again.

Even Leicester have picked up the trophy the Red Devils once called their own, in that time.

It was felt not so long ago Solskjaer would take them back to better times. Those 14 wins and two draws from his first 17 games and some cracking attacking football suggested a bright future.

This latest defeat shows they are not even at square one again.


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