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dour derby United and City was a soulless shocker - you wouldn't see it in the era of Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Peter Reid

Lack of crowd was probable contributing factor in this dreadful bore

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Manchester City’s Ferran Torres (left) tries to get to grips with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba.  Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

Manchester City’s Ferran Torres (left) tries to get to grips with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

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Manchester City’s Ferran Torres (left) tries to get to grips with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

Shocking. I can think of no other word for what I sat through on Saturday night.

This was not the Manchester derby I knew - and loved to play in.

This was a sterile, hopeless, game in which two teams were afraid to try to win because they were afraid of losing.

I've rarely seen a Pep Guardiola-coached football team play that way.

Yes, Pep knows how to set up his charges to defend well. But only when they are playing a really top team with plenty of attacking talent and have to be aware of the danger.

Not when they are facing a Manchester United side that is clearly lacking in confidence.

But, I'm sorry, my harshest words have to be reserved for the home team.

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United’s Mason Greenwood (left) and City’s
Raheem Sterling battle for the ball. Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

United’s Mason Greenwood (left) and City’s Raheem Sterling battle for the ball. Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

PA

United’s Mason Greenwood (left) and City’s Raheem Sterling battle for the ball. Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

It was as though they were caught in the headlights of last Tuesday's exit from the Champions League.

That this match suddenly became a 'do not lose' outing for United.

But there was no urgency from United's players. If you have gone out of Europe, get back into your fans' good books by having a right go at City. Give your support a little pride this weekend.

For now, Manchester United are going nowhere.

Yes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is under pressure as United manager.

Maybe not that much pressure, because what top world coach is going to get into a mess that is the club's upstairs set-up?

My old club is signing players like Zlatan Ibrahomovic and Edinson Cavani, great players who are at the end of their career, not the top talent of the day.

It is no secret that Ole wanted a brilliant young talent of our time in Jadon Sancho.

And the club would not go and get him from Borussia Dortmund during the summer. They did not accept the German club at their word and pay the money.

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Manchester United's Luke Shaw gets to know Riyad Mahrez. Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

Manchester United's Luke Shaw gets to know Riyad Mahrez. Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

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Manchester United's Luke Shaw gets to know Riyad Mahrez. Photo: Phil Noble/PA Wire.

Now they will have to pay it next summer - or watch another club outbid them. And that never happened before with Manchester United.

If they wanted a player they got him.

And it could continue that way. Ole has already been mumbling about not signing too many players in January.

Is that because he has been told he can't have any money in January as supporters are still, largely, locked out of football grounds.

Such was the numb feeling in my body, at half-time my only thought was "please, let something happen, let someone fall over and do something that will shake this match into life" because the two teams were afraid of losing, afraid of giving that one ball away to a team that is good on the counter-attack - and that would be the moment that would settle it all.

I mean, there wasn't even a tackle in the first half.

God, when Bryan Robson and Roy Keane and Peter Reid were playing in this match, never mind going back to Franny Lee and the late, great Nobby Stiles, the referee just put away his whistle for the first ten minutes.

Everyone, me included when I was at Old Trafford, got a little free clip at an opponent in. It was all part of the Manchester derby.

And then we got on with it, knowing that the ref would bring out the yellow or red card after that.

As players, we'd had our fun and satisfied the fans' desires for seeing their least favoured player on the other team flying through the air.

Instead we got nothing, so spark, no life, not even a good scrap.

No wonder Roy was giving out on the telly afterwards about the lack of passion, there were just two bookings in the whole 90 minutes. About players and coaches hugging each other, instead of getting stuck into each other.

Maybe the lack of supporters was a contributing issue.

Without support, and ire, coming down from the terraces, the players were under no pressure to get stuck in.

Really the whole match wasn't anything I associate with a Manchester derby at all.

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

PA

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

And certainly not since 'the noisy neighbours' turned up and parked their tanks on Alex Ferguson's lawn almost a decade ago.

Ever since, these two direct clashes have been huge for United, a chance to show who is the real football club in town.

You'd never have thought that's what they were trying to do yesterday evening.

It really was dispiriting to watch. One of the top games of the Premier League calendar turned into a right dog's dinner.

I don't buy into this stuff that players are fatigued having finished off the end of last season and then kicked straight into this campaign.

They had a long rest to get battered bodies back into shape between March and May. They ought to be flying now.

And now I'm about to put the mockers on another match.

I'm really looking forward to Wednesday night's showdown between Liverpool and Spurs at Anfield.

This can't finish 0-0, can it? There will be goals, surely, in a game with Harry Kane, Mo Salah and Sadio Mane on the pitch.

I'd normally be with the home team in this one, the Reds have been so good at home over the last three seasons, not losing a Premier League game.

But Spurs' strike-force of Kane and Son Heung-min are on fire - and now face a Liverpool side without their best centre-halves in Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez.

And Spurs are managed by Jose Mourinho, who, if he still doesn't quite think he is managing Brazil, is at least content to let his quality attacking players strut their stuff for Spurs.

By the end of it all, Jurgen Klopp might be relieved to get a point out of what is looking like a real midweek cracker.

And a game where a win would be all the more important and valuable for both clubs now after last night's drab affair saw Manchester's club let points slip away.

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