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Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3: The Post-Mortem

December 10, 2012

<Sigh> Last minute defeats to United will never fail to resemble a hearty punch in the stomach, they will never become easier to take. It happens too much. The City of old would have asked for it by retreating to the edge of their penalty area and inviting pressure, but this one hurt more because it was totally self-inflicted (more on that later), at a time when City were totally on top. Another 3-2 home loss to United after Kompany exits the pitch early. Groundhog Day.

City started well, were undone by two good attacking moves, and faced an uphill battle after that. The second half response was pleasing, and a draw could have been justified, but City still go long periods sometimes without fashioning chances. They were sublime at times, and this was not a bad performance, but I wish they’d cross the ball occasionally. The attackers wasted possession within United’s penalty area time after time by going for the perfect pass.  United won because they scored virtually every chance, they were clinical. City had more chances and more shots, but wasted too many so cannot really complain.

Also, City were exposed down the right flank, none more so than for the second goal. The problem with Silva and Nasri is they narrow the team, and are unlikely to protect full backs or track runners into the penalty area, as Silva perhaps should have done for that second goal.

To steal a quote, Rooney’s first goal crept in like a cheating husband. As I’m not sure even Rooney knew it was going there, I fail to see how Hart was to blame. Though stepping backwards into the net didn’t really help.

Why always him? The post-match slagging off of Balotelli was as inevitable as Match of the Day showing him walking down the tunnel after being substituted, and he wasn’t as bad as some claimed. He wasn’t great either, but it is difficult to understand some of the decisions Roberto Mancini has made recently. The side for this game surely picked itself. Tevez and Aguero are City’s best two strikers. What’s more, when they start together, City tend to win. Perhaps Mancini sees Balotelli as a big game player, and he has certainly delivered against United in the past, but even with that in mind, his selection was baffling, and yet again Mancini had to make 2nd half changes to rectify an error. Both Italians are not covering themselves in glory at the moment.

For all the “what ifs”, United should have been 3-0 up anyway, with Young’s goal wrongly disallowed, and most of these points would have been irrelevant. United could have had a penalty, and Tevez could have been dismissed. We dominated much of the game yet could have been on the end of a thrashing. A strange game, but the defending wasn’t good enough. City have won some major battles over United in recent years, but this was their day. The title race is strongly in United’s favour now, especially as they have already played, and won, at City, Chelsea and Liverpool. At least we can say that this is certainly a City team with some fight.

Losing to some wonder goal or a fluid move would have been hard to take, but losing this way will take weeks to forget. This was a goal that City had about 5 opportunities to prevent. Firstly, the smallest error – perhaps Hart could have come to clear the initial ball over the top. Once Clichy had it, he made a big mistake by not passing back to Hart, of clearing the ball into the proverbial Row Z. Having lost the ball, I’m not even sure Tevez touched their player, but a free kick was given. And then the really big mistakes kicked in. Samir Nasri’s cowardly action is the sort of thing that could trigger a life-long grudge against a player. He couldn’t have contributed more to City’s downfall if he’d karate-kicked Van Persie in the head. By hiding behind the wall he allowed Van Persie a clear shot at goal, and by half-heartedly sticking out a leg, he looped the ball over Hart’s dive. It was pitiful.

Not that Hart was blameless. He was stood at that side of the goal and once more stepped left (not for the first time this season) and let the shot past him, though the deflection didn’t help. He also appeared to go against the management’s wishes and took Tevez out the wall to get a clearer view. That went well.

There’s little needs saying about throwing coins or wandering on the pitch, because if you have a brain you should be able to work it out for yourself. Every club has a minority of fans who are utter idiots, and City’s contingent let the club down after United’s winner. As for the fan who ran on the pitch – he should never be allowed in the ground again. That’s what happens when you sell tickets on Viagogo.

I couldn’t care less about unbeaten home records or other similar stats. Only the league table matters. That’s the worst consequence of yesterday’s defeat.

Robin Van Persie. And to think that many City fans didn’t want him in the summer. Maybe because they think he’s not very nice, and City only sign really nice people of course. Or maybe because he had a cry after Adebayor kicked him a few years ago. It’s fair to say we probably didn’t need him, as there were other areas of the team that needed greater attention, but you don’t turn down the chance to sign one of the best forwards in the world. Predictably he has stayed fit and continued scoring. And if he was a City player, we’d probably win the league easily. At this stage, he is the big difference between the two Manchester clubs.

I have always dismissed the constant chatter about Mancini being replaced. Now I begin to wonder if there is some truth in the stories. A trophy-less season will probably lose him his job, which may seem harsh, but that’s the way of his profession, especially at the top. City have so far gone backwards this season. That’s not all Mancini’s fault, who wanted a team with Van Persie, De Rossi, Hazard and Martinez in it, but he can’t complain about the squad of players he has. With Tevez like a new signing, and last season’s first team (bar occasional player De Jong) still all here, this team should have been stronger this season, but it’s all been a bit “meh” (by the previous high standards). It’s been a long title-winning hangover.

So Newcastle becomes a must-win game? Not really, it is a term used far too liberally. QPR at home last season was a must-win game, this isn’t. But if City fall nine points behind next weekend, they face a huge mountain to climb. They need to put a winning run together, and soon.

One silver lining. If United win the league, Alex Ferguson might retire. It’s almost worth it.

Bloody hell Nasri. Bloody hell.

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