The omission of Valencia was baffling last night.

by Rob Ward

So the biggest match in Premier League history became the biggest mismatch of the season. From the instant that United’s team was announced it was always likely to be so.

Although the Red Devils’ title charge has faltered of late, dropping the in-form Danny Welbeck, just as his partnership with Wayne Rooney has begun to bear fruit, seemed strange. Leaving out Antonia Valencia’s pace, power and graft seemed even sillier. And bringing in Ji-Sung Park bordered on the insane.

The Korean has become increasingly marginalised at Old Trafford, failing to start a game in any competition since January. Although this can be partly attributed to United’s early cup exits, it’s also due to the fact that Park looks a busted flush. His main attribute – lung busting energy – seems to have dissipated and he offers little else. He lacks composure on the ball, cannot beat a man, passes poorly and, particularly last night, spends huge amounts of time parked on his arse: he simply cannot remain upright.

United’s record with him in the team has been appalling of late, losing eight of his last ten starts. This might be a consequence of the games he’s selected for but it’s also a symptom of his prolonged run of poor form. Perhaps he’ll be heading for the Old Trafford exit with Dimitar Berbatov and Michael Owen this summer.

Park’s peripheral role in proceedings was wholly expected by everyone except Sir Alex Ferguson. What was less predictable was the way United allowed Manchester City the freedom of the flanks. Hardly famed for their scintillating wing play, City still managed to dominate Patrice Evra and Phil Jones completely. Often doubling up on the full backs (who received little support from United’s tucked in wingers), Samir Nasri, in particular, flourished out wide. Only some excellent interceptions in the box kept the scoreline respectable.

That said, it took some alarmingly slack marking from Chris Smalling to allow Vincent Kompany’s thumping headed goal. But in a game in which an isolated and petulant Wayne Rooney failed to spearhead a single shot on target, defeat was nothing less than this rag-tag red rabble deserved.