Red triumph hands City the blues



Remarkable the transformation. In six short months Sir Alex Ferguson’s side has  metamorphosed from the timid outfit that lost so meekly to Manchester City at Eastlands in April, to an embolden challenger, outplaying the English champions on home turf this past Sunday. Indeed, Manchester United’s victory over Roberto Mancini’s outfit not only stretches the Reds’ Premier League lead to six points, but earns Ferguson plaudits for the turnaround in approach. It is a boost to confidence many had sought with only partial belief.

Fascinating too is the contradictory tension now liberated in the Blue quarter of Manchester, with goalkeeper Joe Hart and Mancini reportedly at loggerheads over Robin van Persie’s final-minute winner. The Dutchman’s curled free-kick found the bottom of the stoppers’ net much to the Mancini’s evident and vocal disgust.

In such games are titles won and lost; the beginning of a narrative that may come to characterise a season. This is even more evident given the dénouement of another dramatic Manchester derby, which brought a damaging loss for the hosts and a stunning victory for the visitors. It is, surely, a win that defines the current incarnation of Sir Alex’ side.

If it is the nature of victory that has proffered immeasurable confidence at Old Trafford then it is also the intensity of occasion that enabled sweet relief at the climax. After City’s 7-1 aggregate Premier League double last season, United simply had to gain something from this short trip across Manchester.

“We’ve done it to City in the past of course but this was special simply because they hadn’t lost at home for two years,” admitted a glowing Sir Alex in the aftermath.

“Both of us are contenders at the top of the league and it was an incredible game, you couldn’t take your eyes off it. The intensity, passion, competitiveness… everything was there.”

United’s hard work so nearly came to nothing after City fought from two goals down to draw level with minutes to spare. Had Ferguson’s side thrown away a lead to lose, as seemed the more likely scenario with 10 minutes to spare, then City’s supremacy would now be etched into this derby – a third straight Premier League victory.

The downbeat mood, had loss entailed, could also have been cast in controversy after officials’ incorrect decision to rule Ashley Young’s strike offside with United already two goals to the good.

“You’ve got to give credit to City for the way they keep going and for scoring late goals,” said Ferguson.

“City kept fighting, they kept battling and they’ve got this great record of scoring late goals. City scored a second goal and they deserved it. At that point, you’re saying to yourself, ‘I’ll take the draw.’ But up to that point, I thought we were far better than them.

“Fortunately we got the last one that counted. You know Robin’s capable of that. It took a little deflection but it was a wicked hit and I’m really delighted it’s flown in.”

Sweeter still for the Red majority that it should be van Persie who scored United’s winner. Salt in a City’s wound after the Dutchman reportedly turned down the Blues’ £300,000 per week contract offer last summer. For the greater glory, said the 29-year-old striker – another defining moment in an increasingly tense relationship between these two clubs.

Meanwhile, over at Eastlands the recriminations are still being felt more than 48 hours after the game’s conclusion. Tension between Hart and Mancini, exposed after City’s 3-2 loss to Real Madrid last month, has bubbled to the surface again.

There has also been widespread criticism of Samir Nasri; the Frenchman’s dive behind Hart’s wall and petulant flick of the leg enabling van Persie’s shot to deflect past the England ‘keeper.

And then there is Mario Balotelli, whose performance of casual ineptitude made a mockery of Mancini’s decision to bench both Carlos Tevez and the free-scoring Bosnian forward Edin Džeko. The multi-talented Italian striker has the quality to win key matches, but rarely the temperament to bring it to the fore.

“It is a bad feeling at this moment, when you lose a derby in the last seconds, but the manager should do his choice properly,” said Mancini, who is under increasing pressure after failure in Europe.

“I decided to play with Mario because he could cause a problem for their defenders. I wanted to wait to see if Mario could play well in the second half. But after five minutes, I saw he played like he played in the first half and I didn’t want this. It is important for him to start to think about his job. I saw players like that in my life with fantastic quality and end up with nothing, but I don’t want this for him.”

Mancini is now left in an invidious position having spent around £100 million on Tevez, Džeko and Ballotelli, but seemingly unable to trust the trio. Even Sergio Agüero, it seems, has gone off the boil this season having scored seven times in 15 matches this season.

More proof, if required, that while City’s billion pound investment has brought trophies and glory to a formerly decaying club, retaining pre-eminancy remains the toughest job in professional sport.

Indeed, while Abu Dhabi has not the heart to sack Mancini this winter – a change of horses in mid-stream that would only increase instability – it will take a remarkable turnaround in the club’s fortunes for the Italian to last beyond next summer. Not with Pep Guardiola and José Mourinho likely to be available.

If defeat has served to highlight deficiencies in Mancini’s squad and approach then it has also masked, temporarily at least, United’s weaknesses. Once again Ferguson’s side conceded freely – largely due to a bold open approach that is rewarded with points and goals, but offers little security at the back.

Six points is a healthy lead heading into the Christmas programme, but one that can also erode quickly if United adds to the five defeats already suffered this season.

Yet, there was handsome reward for Ferguson’s recognition that United could gain little by retrenching into the defensive mentality of last spring’s defeat at Eastlands. United sought victory and came away with the spoils.

After all the Scot’s selection could have included ‘safe’ experience in Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Anders Lindegaard. In past times Park Ji-Sung would almost certainly have played.

Instead, Ferguson’s decision to entrust Danny Welbeck, Tom Cleverley and David de Gea speaks clearly to the change of mentality since April.

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Comments

  1. I was ecstatic when RVP scored the winner. Amidst the celebrations, we have to realize our performances against lowly teams have not been great and despite our narrow wins and a 6-point gap at the top, I would advocate caution, lest we throw it away like last season.

    It’s amazing we have now won away at City, Chelsea and Liverpool, all difficult games. But it’s equally important to beat the likes of Reading, QPR, Wigan. We struggled to beat the former two, and the 2nd half of the season will get tougher with United playing in Europe while City does not.

    Consistency will be key for us. Consistency in the starting eleven, and especially in goalkeeping, and consistency in defence. For all of RVP’s goals, I think he would have done much better with a stronger, more settled midfield than what we have now.

  2. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    all the midfield has to be is solid and hardworking and the big two will do the rest against the top sides, two fucking amazing players, the best pair of strikers weve had under the manager

    although id still rather nani and kagawa than young and valencia

    why dont we press sides every game like we did there,

  3. Denton Davey says:

    uncleknobheadforfucksake @ 4:45: “id still rather nani and kagawa than young and valencia”

    I second that motion.

    AND Anderson in place of Young Tom, too.

    • Mongoletsi says:

      Nani is no longer to be counted on, otherwise Valencia is far more consistent and dependable. Nani is clearly leaving anyway.

  4. SAF seems to have decided that Carrick + Cleverly is his midfield for the big games. Perhaps if Anderson stayed injury free for more than 2 games in a row he might challenge for Cleverly’s berth.

    At the moment I’m feeling pretty good about our chances to win the PL, because in practice the team that wins the most matches always wins the league. Draws only become decisive if two teams have won the same amount of games. Generally speaking, you need to be winning more than 70% of your matches to be champions (27 wins or more). At the moment we are winning more than 80% of our games, and City are only winning 56% of theirs. That’s a massive difference — the 6 point gap understates how far we are ahead at the moment because tied matches are very unlikely to determine who gets crowned champions. I’d much rather lose more matches than our rivals so long as we are also winning more, which is why Fergie’s attack-minded philosophy is always the way to go in the league. Managers who are most concerned with not losing rather than winning, like Benitez, can be good at elimination cup tournaments but are terrible at winning the league because playing out a draw is effectively as good as losing most of the time.

  5. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    If our defense was as tight as it normally is, we’d be out of sight.

    If we make any signings in January, I’d expect it to be defensive additions.

  6. United are doing better than expected. Long may it continue. Although with every weekend there remains the possibility they will get found out. Great to see De Gea coming for crosses, punching or otherwise, Sunday, among other good things.

  7. Amazing what a derby win can do. 2 weeks ago there was much doom and gloom here, myself included!

    Here’s praying we hammer Sunderland!

  8. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    “Great to see De Gea coming for crosses, punching or otherwise, Sunday, among other good things.”

    Que???

  9. One of the presenters on Five Live said De Gea once did a radio interview with them and he was so nervous he was shaking
    Thought that was quite revealing

  10. sidney said:
    One of the presenters on Five Live said De Gea once did a radio interview with them and he was so nervous he was shaking

    Thought that was quite revealing

    Why? Rooney is still awkward, uncomfortable and mumbly in every post-match interview, and he’s had far more exposure to the media than De Gea. There’s a reason why these guys kick footballs instead of performing Shakespeare — speaking to an audience is terrifying to most people.

  11. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    Commenter said:
    Nani is no longer to be counted on, otherwise Valencia is far more consistent and dependable. Nani is clearly leaving anyway.

    is dependency what you want from utd wingers

    not this again…

  12. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    is dependency what you want from utd wingers

    not this again…

    Knobby you can’t stay so blinkered on this issue; all the X-Factory shite in the world doesn’t mask the fact that Nani is simply not performing at the level he should. Being able to pull off a few tricks/step-overs doesn’t cut it these days (unless you’re actually THAT good) which he just isn’t.

  13. The Xfactor argument also needs to be put in the context of the competition

    In the BPL, I want wingers who produce (goals, assists and assists to assists) consistently over the course of a season.

    Given the fact that leagues are won by having as many points as possible, in other words winning as many games as possible, I would rather have a winger that can produce on a more consistent basis. There is no sense in having a guy who can produce 5 assists in one game and then be qu,iet over the next 5…it still is only 3 points. I would rather have a winger who produce an assist every game (assuming here we win the majority if we score one goal, certainly not a certainty given current state of defense but you get my drift)

    I dont particularly care who it is. It can be little green men for all I care….

    On evidence of the last 12 months, Valencia is the best of the three, for now. If I have a magic ball that tells me Nani will produce from now on, I’ll start him in a heartbeat.

    In the CL or other cups, each game becomes critical, the ability to “step up” in big games becomes more crucial. I guess one can argue that Nani would bemore probable to produce magic here, although I would still say he hasnt shown enough the past few months….

  14. Bloody hell. Just remembered that Sunderland fans were doing the Poznan on the last day of last season when Aguero scored.

    Really hope we hammer them. 13-0 would be just revenge…I’ll settle for a convincing 3-0 though…

    • Damian Garside says:

      It’s natural for them to do that –pure envy –no hope if ever experiencing the glory we take for granted.

  15. Denton Davey says:

    Anantax @ 4:58: “There is no sense in having a guy who can produce 5 assists in one game and then be qu,iet over the next 5…it still is only 3 points.”

    Dimmy left the building.

  16. It occurred to me that Valencia is probably one of the most effective attackers in the PL. Think about it — we are regularly the first or second highest-scoring team in the league, and since we signed Valencia our attacks have come really disproportionately from the right hand side. It’s pretty much all we do these days, Carrick and Scholes are constantly passing out to right wing. That means Tony V is at the heart of the deadliest attacking vector in the PL.

  17. Denton Davey says:

    bman @ 6:47: “constantly passing out to right wing. That means Tony V is at the heart of the deadliest attacking vector in the PL.”

    You’re overlooking the contribution of RedRafa – the little tiger is a great attacking full-back and is often in the opposition penalty box.

    The combination between AV7 and RedRafa works wonderfully – if NinjaEvra could get a similar complement on the left then it just might be too soon to declare that width-is-dead.

  18. United 4 Sunderland 1 on Saturday.Did I tell you about a most exciting match between the two? November 1974, I believe it was,in the old second division. United 2-0 down (has a familiar ring,what), 60,000 plus in the ground.United eventual 3-2 winners (Morgan,Pearson and McIlroy). “Football as it should be played” one tabloid declared. Ah well. Just thought I’d mention it.

  19. Commenter said:
    Talking of Shakespeare – how about this!?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kur5sS3EWQs

    Heh, those Serbs ey, full of christmas cheer

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