Manchester United’s defeat to Manchester City was another major disappointment at the weekend. The Red Devils had high hopes of an away win, which quickly went up in smoke.

Some careless defending combined with ruthless attacking saw City win the game 6-3.

But rather than dwell on disappointment, we should perhaps reflect on the simple fact that merely hoping for a victory was unrealistic, this soon after such a major 4-1 mauling away at City in March.

City’s victory over Ralf Rangnick‘s side that day could have been by any score. United were totally outplayed and City were on a different planet. If they had Erling Haaland that day, it could have been 8-1.

The comprehensiveness of that win laid bare the task facing United’s rebuild, and to expect Erik ten Hag to topple them so soon, well, it was asking too much.

Despite the defeat, there were some big improvements in the performance levels in Sunday’s game and the 4-1 March loss, which provide some indicators the team are gradually making progress.

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United’s steps forward

Taking away some of the crushing emotion of another loss to our rivals, and there are some underlying numbers which suggest moderate improvement.

Possession: Manchester United had 46.1 per cent possession in Sunday’s defeat. In March the team could manage only 30.6 per cent.

Chances Created: United’s players created nine goalscoring chances at the weekend. In the defeat earlier this year the team created only two chances.

Shots on target: United had eight shots on target in the 6-3 loss. Earlier this year the team managed only two.

All of this is only small consolation in the wake of such a heavy defeat, and progress will only really be counted when United can beat City again, but the rebuild was never going to be instant.

United were so terrible back in March that Ten Hag was left with a mountain to climb, and some mental scars to overcome in the players remaining.

Bruno Fernandes told the club website: “The second half was much better. We kept control more, we controlled the game whenever we had the ball.”

The damage was already done by this point, but United did well to rally and make it somewhat competitive. The last 20 minutes of the game in March were truly painful, with barely a touch going to the players in red, who were passed off the pitch.

Improvement is slowly being made, and by time the teams match-up later in the season, United may make it even more of a contest.

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