Manchester United 0 Manchester City 3: some Thoughts
Oh boy, that felt good.
Another gut-wrenching, nerve-shredding, migraine-inducing derby day. God I hate them with such a passion. And yet without them and the rivalry we would not have some of this club’s finest moments in their recent history (what little we have of course). No 6-1, no “why always me?”, no title campaign-turning 1-0 victory in April 2012, no Wembley victory on the way to our first trophy in a generation, no Aguero moment, and no cartwheeling into the office as I did this morning, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Again. God bless derby day.
The line-up was mainly as expected, but as is often the case, with the odd curveball. Clichy was preferred over Kolarov, presumably for pace and to try and limit crosses into the box, whilst Navas was picked when many predicted Milner to start.
So how to calm the nerves? Well scoring the quickest ever goal by an opposition team at Old Trafford is one way.
So City scored after 43 seconds with their third chance of the match. This was reminiscent of the Navas goal against Spurs that came after they had kicked off and Aguero had already had a shot. And for 15 minutes City were simply untouchable. Sublime passing, interplay and control of the ball, United could barely get out of their half. The only concern was that City did not capitalise on this domination to put the game to bed.
As is often the case, the opposition got back into the game and for the rest of the half City lost the initiative, with United spurning a couple of fairly good chances. Part of the problem was Zabaleta being battered around the pitch. I was incredulous that he managed to continue and thought it was merely a matter of time until he was substituted, as for ten minutes or so he was limping and out-of-sorts and United were finding space as a result. But this is Pablo Zabaleta of course, a man for whom no superlatives are sufficient and he soon pulled through and continued as normal, an elbow in the face little more than a slight inconvenience.
As for the two possible red cards for United: Welbeck’s was a pure accident, slipping and kicking himself as he approached Zabaleta, sending himself crashing into the Argentinean. In the modern game even that is a yellow card though. Fellaini’s elbow was nothing of the sort and was a clear cop-out from the referee. He had a clear view of a clear red-card offence, but decided to bottle it and award a yellow. The booking means Fellaini cannot be retrospectively punished, which I guess is even worse news for United. As it turns out, I am glad he wasn’t dismissed as it is far more gratifying to win against eleven men rather than the opposition having an excuse for defeat.
Onto the second half, and it all went as well as could be expected. As soon as the second goal went in, United were a spent force. City did not go for the jugular but were sensible and protected a lead before striking a final blow near the end. It was the right thing to do, because this match was not about humiliating the opposition, but about gaining three points. City have won both derbys without truly hitting top gear for the whole of either match – a damning verdict on the gulf in class right now.
It is once more difficult to pick out players when so many perform admirably, but Silva was of course magnificent, as was Fernadinho as usual. Then there was Zabaleta, Toure and a 5th consecutive clean sheet for Demichelis. In summary, there were no weak links in the side.
Textbook from Dzeko, textbook. Having finally and unequivocally written him off a fortnight ago, he then scores a brace in a derby. With hindsight, it was inevitable.
Some stats: City now have a bigger goal difference than United have points. Norwich City have a better home record than United. Vincent Kompany won all three headers, made 4 interceptions and 3 clearances. This is the first time City have kept 5 consecutive clean sheets in the top flight since 1915. Despite me always assuming them to be consistently poor, City have scored 11 goals from corners this season, more than any other team. And for the first time in their history, four City players have scored 20+ goals in a season.
Paranoia klaxon. Well there always has to be a paranoia section after all. Martin Tyler is always unbiased, oh yes, no doubt about that. Funny then when Fellaini had a chance he screamed as if the league title was on the line, yet was strangely silent when Dzeko should have put City two up. #paranoia
Elsewhere, there was another balanced line-up in the studio and commentary box with Gary Neville and Paul Scholes in attendance. Seeing their faces afterwards made it all worthwhile (think two competitors in the finals of the World Slapped Arse Competition) and to be fair Scholes was pretty good, pulling no punches when discussing United and Arsenal.
But my, what a master class in bitterness from our red brethren on Facebook post-match. It wasn’t long before a message appeared commenting on the money we have spent, and how our trophy haul was pretty poor all things considered. The “no history” tag was also attached, as expected. Funnily enough there was no further comment after I pointed out that their mid-table team cost more than City’s. You see, you could argue it’s all a bit classless to be rubbing it in when United have their first bad season, but the fact is a significant section of their fans have brought all this on themselves. THAT banner, the endless city songs, the belief spread that we don’t matter, the tags of bitters and liars and so much more. It would be rude not to pass comment when things don’t go their way for once, because so many of them are utterly incapable of handling it well, or even dealing with the odd joke or two. The fact that I post a picture of the chosen one banner every time United mess up hasn’t helped matters, but that banner is the ultimate irony for the present-day club. After counting year-after-year the lack of City success, they have now set themselves up for ridicule by displaying it, to the extent that stewards now have to protect it at the end of matches to stop it being torn down.
(Or as Bill Borrows commented,” they are haunted by a banner of their own construction that hangs at Old Trafford and mocks them every time they go to the ground or watch the game on TV. And they can’t take it down…”)
I didn’t mind that banner, it was quite funny to be honest. Now we’ll see how well they can take a joke. Or a hundred. And if they can’t take some ribbing, then tough. We’ve had 30 years of it and have waited a long time for this moment. Drink it in, drink in every last f***ing drop.
As for Moyes and United, some comment is required. Well not required per se, but I’m going to enjoy wading in anyway with my penny’s worth. Here is a man clearly out of his depth, but the United board/owners/fan base have got themselves into a moral quandary by perpetuating the myth that they always give managers a chance. Moyes simply isn’t up to it. He is overawed by the job, is far too cautious and has not gained the respect of the players, whilst not displaying sufficient tactical nous to change things around. In press conferences he is utterly uninspiring, seemingly bereft of any fighting spirit. To say United aspire to be like City was a terrible thing for any United manager to utter, because you just don’t say that, however true it may be. This comment will be another stick to beat him with until the day he departs from Old Trafford (I’ll make sure of that).
This season and the summer beyond will damage United and their fan base because it will remove all the fragments of their arguments that they use to attain moral superiority and to boast about bringing through youth and doing things the right way and developing players. Of course we all know it was rubbish anyway, as they have repeatedly broken transfer records, but I will leave it to football365.com’s Mediawatch section to say what we’ve been thinking for some while:
Mediawatch is intrigued by all this talk of Manchester United spending big in the summer. When Manchester City won the league in 2012, United still claimed a moral victory, having spent a fraction of their rival’s total on transfer fees.
During the race to sign Eden Hazard that summer, Sir Alex Ferguson played up to the fans’ claims, saying: “We know that City are going to spend a fortune, pay stupid money, pay silly salaries and all that. We know that happens. We can’t do anything about that.”
But now the champions are struggling, all that morality has suddenly been forgotten. “This club has got spending power too,” said David Moyes on Monday. “City have got that. But I’ve not been told at any time that we don’t have that and I do think that the club will compete (with City).”
So to recap: when United are on top, other clubs should be derided for shelling out big sums in the transfer market. But when they can’t offer Champions League football and have to pay the big bucks, there isn’t a problem. At least that’s cleared up.
The bad news is that this result, with Bayern Munich on the horizon, ensures that the chosen one’s job is once more on the line – and no-one wants that. Give the man a chance! And then another one, and then another one…
As for City, another huge, huge game looms on the horizon. At least now the team has a tiny amount of breathing space. Arsenal’s title campaign has fallen to pieces, but they will surely be up for Saturday’s game, and if, IF, City can repeat their performance of last night, they will have taken a huge step towards a league title I thought had gone just eleven days ago…and in City’s favour, here is a squad that has clearly got its belief back.