Sir Alex Ferguson, sanguine in defeat to Manchester City last night, says Manchester United will win the return leg in a week’s time, with an Old Trafford crowd behind the team. Ferguson’s men were beaten by two goals from former Red Carlos Tevez, who pointedly ran towards the United bench following the Argentinian’s headed winner at Eastlands.
“It is just the way these things happen. Football can be like that. It can bite you,” Ferguson said.
“We have had a few players leave the club and score against us. There is no issue. I am happy with the players we have got.
“We played well and dominated the match. We were reasonably in control, but we had a mad five minutes before half-time that brought them back into the game.”
Ferguson, unhappy with referee Mike Dean’s award of a penalty for a foul clearly outside the area, refused to publicly criticise the Merseyside-born official despite the shocking award. Dean also awarded a disputable corner from which City scored a second.
The Scot, banned for two matches after he labeled another referee “unfit”, has seen key decisions go against his men in games against Liverpool, Chelsea and City this season.
“Everyone can see the penalty for themselves. It is the kind of decision that has gone against us, but could go for us on another day,” the United manager added.
“But with the crowd at Old Trafford and the occasion and what is at stake we will be okay.”
Meanwhile, veteran Ryan Giggs, who scored United’s opener on the quarter hour, said that Dean’s decision changed the game in City’s favour, with United on top before the Bitters’ equaliser.
“It was the perfect start,” Giggs told MUTV.
“You always want to go 1-0 up in a cup tie away from home. After that we probably weren’t as crisp with our passing and kept playing the ball backwards.
“We let City back into it, really. We felt we were a little unlucky to go into the break at 1-1 but we also knew we could play better.
“(The penalty decision) was a turning point. If we’d have gone in 1-0 up it might have been a different story. Sometimes you get decisions and sometimes you don’t – you just have to get on with it.”
Giggs, who played in his 31st Manchester derby, bemoan United’s failure to convert chances when Ferguson’s team was on top in the opening period. United lost the opening leg of last year’s Carling Cup semi-final before sweeping away Derby County at Old Trafford.
“We created plenty of chances but we didn’t have that stroke of luck or composure in front of goal. Hopefully we’ll have that in the second leg – hopefully we can put the chances away this time.
“After they scored (the second) we played well and probably deserved to get that equaliser. Last season we comprehensively beat Derby County in the second leg of the semi so hopefully we can do that again.
“It’s going to be tough – City are a good team, but there were enough signs, especially in the last half-hour to suggest we’re good enough to beat them.”
The second leg, which takes place at Old Trafford on Wednesday 27 January, could go ahead without Gary Neville who faces the prospect of an FA charge after appearing to make an obscene gesture in the direction of Tevez. The Argentinian twice ran towards the United bench after scoring the disputed penalty and a headed second.
Manchester City came from a goal behind to beat Manchester United at Eastlands, with Carlos Tevez scoring two wildly celebrated goals to hand the blues a narrow advantage. The former United forward, who joined City for between £25 and £47 million in the summer, struck home a fortuitous penalty and a headed second to inflict more pain on an embattled Sir Alex Ferguson.
Manchester United’s away contingent provided an electric atmosphere before the match but referee Mike Dean handed Manchester City a gifted penalty in the Carling Cup semi-final first leg to spark some life into the tepid home support. But the defeat – a fourth in nine games and eighth this season – piles the pressure on United following a week of lurid headlines about the club’s financial situation.
United dominated possession early on with Anderson supporting the magnificent Wayne Rooney in attack and Antonio Valencia looking dangerous on the right wing. Sir Alex’ formation handed the visitors an extra man in midfield, to which City struggled to adapt in the opening period.
United’s early possession, which had fueled chances for Ryan Giggs and Patrice Evra in the opening minutes, was rewarded on the quarter hour as the Welshman tapped home. Valencia, always the out-ball for Ferguson’s men, found Rooney at the near post and Giggs prodded in the rebound from Shey Given’s save.
City, subdued with three defensive players in midfield, almost struck back on twenty minutes as Shaun Wright-Philips skinned Evra to provide an opportunity for Tevez on a plate. Amazingly the striker headed wide from six yards out. It was a foretaste of things to come as United’s defence, once again missing Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, was exposed.
There looked no way back into the game for City, with the fans as quiet as the team on the pitch. As United pressed, City dropped back with the away side well on top and home support more interested in singing their favourite ‘Munich’ tunes as is commonplace.
Indeed, it took a disgraceful decision from Dean to hand City a route back into the match. Rafael, holding Bellamy’s shirt well outside the area, gave away the softest of penalties as the Welsh striker finally tumbled in the box. Referee conned – another all too keen to make himself a name in a high profile match – and Tevez gleefully slammed home the spot-kick to bring the home side level.
It breathed life into City, with Bellamy flying into first Valencia and then Evra as he escaped the referee’s sanction. But the visitors still created the majority of chances with Rooney forcing an outstanding save from Given as he broke behind the City defence, and then Giggs almost addeding a second as he met the Scouser’s left-wing cross at the far post.
Finally City started playing like the home side and Tevez completed his brace from a dubious corner. Dean, having a ‘mare, spotted a deflection off a United player when few others, including the chasing Bellamy, could. But United failed to deal with the problem, defence all at sea as Wes Brown and Jonny Evans chased the ball rather than defend space, to leave the Argentinian all alone to head home a simple winner.
United rallied, with Fletcher’s drive blocked, Rooney forcing yet another save from the classy Given and Nedum Onoua clearing substitute Michael Owen’s goalbound effort off the line.
Rooney – the game’s standout player but criminally left to forage alone up front – then capped a wonderful United move, ghosting past three defenders and bringing out a finger-tip save from the Irishman in City’s goal. United laid siege as Giggs twice played teammates into open spaces as City dropped deeper, with Valencia managing to miss an open goal from just yards out.
Finally, Ferguson introduced striker Mame Biram Diouf as United sought a desperate equaliser. But the Senegalese forward, handed Tevez’ old number 32 shirt, headed wide when unmarked. The Blues sang “Fergie, Fergie sign him up” to sum up a woeful evening.
To whet your appetite ahead of tonight’s 153rd Manchester derby, which began in 1881, here are some modern classics. Forget the Blue Noses who mention Dennis Law’s back-heal, or the five goals scored at Maine Road in 1989. Consign them to history. Think about United’s five in 1994, comeback from three down a year earlier or Michael Owen’s winner in September.
Manchester City 2 – 3 Manchester United, Maine Road, 1993
One of United’s greatest ever comebacks – this time in City’s backyard. Trailing by two Nial Quinn goals, United returned with strikes from Eric Cantona and Roy Keane, winning it in the final minute of the match. Sweet.
Manchester United 5 – 0 Manchester City, Old Trafford, 1994
With that 1989 match at Maine Road still all too fresh in supporters’ minds, United’s flying Russian winger Andrei Kanchelskis went on the rampage, scoring an Old Trafford hat-trick. It was the match that finally shut the Blue Noses up and allowed right-minded Manchester folk to lift their chins up once again!
Manchester United 1 – 1 Manchester City, Old Trafford, 2001
Roy Keane’s long running feud with the Norwegian Alfe-Inge Haarland led to this horror tackle by the midfielder. Keane saw red and was banned for three matches. Keane’s biography, in which he suggested that he wanted to hurt the City player, cost the Irishman a further five match ban and £150,000 fine. Such a pity then that Keane and Carlos Tevez couldn’t meet on the pitch this weekend, some of a crueller disposition might say.
Manchester United 4 – 3 Manchester City, Old Trafford, 2009
Michael Owen scores a wonderful 96th minute winner to beat City at Old Trafford. City boss Mark Hughes’ complaints over injury time dominated the headlines but United was excellent on the day with three defensive errors allowing City into the game.
When Manchester United face Manchester City in tomorrow night’s Carling Cup semi-final first leg there is more than a Wembley place at stake: for the first time in a generation City start the match with greater confidence. The decision for Sir Alex Ferguson is whether to meet that challenge head-on or place trust in youth.
When the two clubs met at Old Trafford in September, United won the day with Michael Owen’s 96th minute winner. While Mark Hughes’ misdirected complaint over the length of injury time dominated the headlines, in truth the Reds were vastly superior on the day. Four months on and United’s form has stuttered, while City is revitalised under new manager Roberto Mancini’s stewardship.
Indeed, United’s FA Cup third round loss to Leeds United 10 days ago may have changed Ferguson’s mind about the Scot’s promise to trust in youth for the rest of the Carling Cup campaign. So poorly did Darron Gibson, Danny Welbeck and others perform that the Scot may bring out the ‘A’ team for tomorrow night’s clash.
City, who lost at Everton this weekend after four straight wins, is already a major threat to United’s supremacy according to Ferguson. City has not reached a domestic cup final since 1981 and failed to take home any silverware since 1976.
“You have to recognise they are a competitor now,” said Ferguson, who first faced City in a January 1987 FA Cup tie.
“We have had to wait a long time for it to be like that but they are obviously making a much better fist of their league programme this year than they have done in the past.
“You could not compare it to Rangers and Celtic but having rivals in the same city does create far more emotion.”
Edwin van der Sar, restored in goal for United’s weekend clash with Burnley, may keep his place as the Dutch legend continues to build match fitness after two months on the sidelines.
In defence Ferguson could restore Rafael da Silva at right-back, in place of Gary Neville who had a shocker against Burnley. Meanwhile, Paul Scholes – also off the pace at the weekend – will drop out of the starting eleven in favour of Darren Fletcher.
However, Ferguson is sweating on the fitness of Dimitar Berbatov, who limped through the Burnley match not with a knee problem as many suspected but a dead leg. Meanwhile, Ryan Giggs is unlikely to regain fitness in time to make the team for his 31st Manchester derby.
Typically, Ferguson has deployed five through midfield in the tougher matches this season but that decision will depend on whether the Scot chooses to deploy Wayne Rooney or not. With Michael Owen not suited to the lone frontman role, Ferguson may hand Mame Biram Diouf another shot at forcing his way into the first team picture following his weekend goal against Burnley.
But one player who doesn’t buy into the theory that City is in the ascendancy, with United – burdened with massive debt – on the slide, is Neville.
“I don’t see the game as an opportunity to reassert our dominance over City,” the former-England right-back told The Guardian.
“We’re quite comfortable with where we are. We are second in the league, we’re in the Carling Cup semi-final and we’re in the second phase of the Champions League, so we have nothing to prove.
“Our two games against Manchester City in the Carling Cup are massive for us. It is a competition we have done well in over the past couple of years, and no doubt they will want to do well too.
“It’s a local derby and one of the biggest games we have played against City for a long time. Certainly we expect it to be difficult. They are in good form, and it’s always difficult away against City. We will have to be at our best for the game at their ground.”
United will again face Carlos Tevez, who swapped Old Trafford for Eastlands in the summer after a £25 million deal was struck by City’s owners. The Argentinian, who has scored 12 Premier League goals this season including a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers last week, has been vocal in his desire to put one over his former employers.
“The manager over the years has made many decisions with regard to players coming and going, and he has almost always been proved correct,” said Neville.
“I can’t disagree with his decision on Tevez. He was a good player for us but if the financial demands are too big then that’s just the way it goes. Other good players have left this club in the past; it’s not the first time it’s happened.”
As Neville once said, United is a club that moves on quickly. Should the Reds’ new number 32, Senegalese forward Diouf, strike home a late winner tomorrow night, nobody on the Red side of the City will care for Tevez.
Manchester United’s attempt at football redemption will have to wait for another day with the Carling Cup semi-final at Eastlands postponed due to severe weather in the North West. United was due to play Manchester City on Wednesday night but heavy snow means the match is now rearranged to Tuesday 19 January.
ManUtd.com reports that the second leg, scheduled for Tuesday 19 January at Old Trafford, will now take place on Wednesday 27 January with the Reds Premier League fixture against Hull City shifted to an unconfirmed date.
The postponement will relieve Sir Alex Ferguson of a team selection headache. Plan A – the deployment of United’s younger players at Eastlands – was firmly thrown out of the window after the team’s FA Cup defeat last weekend. United will now field a full-strength team away at Birmingham City this weekend, with Carling Cup selection very much dependent on results in the coming Premier League matches against Burnley and the second city team.
Just as Manchester City fans thought it was safe to raise their heads above the parapet the old comedy routine rolled out again. City’s takeover by the Abu Dhabi Royal Family around a year ago should have lifted the club to a higher level. Indeed, to raise standards over and above that of crosstown rivals Manchester United.
Mark Hughes’ brutal sacking this week has place a question mark over the club’s ethics.
Hughes’ departure, confirmed after reports leaked out of the club prior to the weekend’s 4-3 win over Sunderland, comes 18 months into the former-Wales and Blackburn manager’s tenure at the club. The odds never favoured the 46-year-old coach when, just weeks into his job, Thaksin Shinawatra, the disgrace former-Thai President, was forced out of the club.
When the Abu Dhabi-based Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development company completed a takeover of Manchester City on 1 September 2008 it did so with a promise of higher standards than Shinawatra could offer. As the very definition of a vanity buy, City’s standing in the world of football matters to the owner Sheikh Mansour al-Mubarak. It’s a footing that has taken a hit in the past week.
In an extraordinary press conference this week City’s beleaguered Chief Executive Gary Cook first denied that the club was seeking an alternative manager behind Hughes’ back and then admitted – in the same breath – that the Eastlands outfit had done exactly that.
“I think it is important for people to know that Roberto was only offered the job after the Spurs game; we negotiated on Thursday and finalised his agreement on Friday,” the utterly hapless Cook lied in a statement at the conference, Monday.
The former-Nike executive was then contradicted by his new manager, Roberto Mancini, who admitted to having met with City Chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak to talk about the job more than a fortnight ago.
“Two weeks ago Roberto met with Khaldoon,” Cook squirmed in an increasingly bad-tempered performance, culminating in a round of table thumping.
“After the Spurs game, there were further discussions on a more serious level. The [original] discussions were general. They were about football. We were considering our managerial options at the time. It [the manager’s job] was discussed in general terms.”
Cook, remember, is the executive who said with a remarkably straight face that AC Milan had “bottled it” over a proposed £103 million transfer of Brazilian midfielder Kaká last winter. And it was Cook, whose position is now untenable, who happily allowed Hughes to take charge of City at the weekend knowing the coach was a dead man walking.
Saving face indeed.
Amid the skullduggery City at least confirmed the club’s true intentions this week. Despite earlier talk of building for the long-term, Hughes’ dismissal after the club set the former-United striker a sixth-place finish this season reeks of short-termism. Rumours abound that Mancini does not expect to stay at the club past this summer. This makes sense if, as third choice for the job behind Guus Hiddink and Jose Mourinho, he does not lead the club into the Champions League.
Despite this few tears were shed for Sparky, who has proven himself a less than amiable manager. With Blackburn and Wales Hughes drew over-achieving performances from under-talented players. With City, Hughes was not able to control the egos of superstar players such as Robinho, Elano and Emmanuel Adebayor.
Like Glenn Hoddle with England before him, Hughes the manager may have fallen into the trap of great players turned coach. The frustration of working with players that do not share Hughes’ work ethic led to dressing room conflict.
More recently Hughes fell out with Arsene Wenger, who refused to shake the Welshman’s hand. The striker, who scored 129 goals in 345 league games for United, also took great delight in the City’s “Welcome to Manchester” poster in Deansgate this summer. Sir Alex Ferguson called it a “small club mentality” – probably where Hughes fits best as a manager.
As for City, the club has rapidly become the Real Madrid of the Premier League, albeit with no history of silverware. Sheikh Mansour will sanction unlimited spending, while managers will surely come and go. They always have at City. This time expectations are set a little higher.
Just not, it seems, when it comes to the ethics of managerial employment.
Manchester United will meet cross-town rivals City in the Carling Cup semi-final after the draw tonight. Sir Alex Ferguson’s team will play City in the two-legged semi after Mark Hughe’s team thrashed Arsenal 3-0 at Eastlands tonight. The matches, which will take place in January 2010, are the first time United has met City in the League cup semi since 1969.
City, who Ferguson labeled at “small club with a small mentality” earlier this season, famously has not won a trophy since 1976, when the club beat Newcastle United 2-1 to lift the League Cup at Wembley.
“We’re just taking in the events of the evening so we’re on a high at the moment, but I’m sure the whole of Manchester will be looking forward to those two games in the semi-final,” said Hughes, who may need to win the competition to keep his job.
“We’d have fancied our chances against anyone in the draw so bring them on. We played really well tonight and ran our comfortable winners.”
Blackburn will play Aston Villa in the other semi-final, with a Wembley final place at stake.
First leg matches are due to be played week commencing 4th January 2010, with the second leg a fortnight later
Two Manchester United stewards stand accused of committing GBH after an incident in which a Manchester City fan broke both legs at Old Trafford. Greater Manchester Police has charged the pair, Mark Roberts, 46, of George Street, Oldham, and Paul Stringer, 45, of Grange Way, Runcorn, who will appear in court next week.
The United stewards, accused of pushing the victim Peter Sweeney down a flight of stairs during the September derby clash, will face a judge at Trafford Magistrates’ Court.
Sweeney, no relation to the 1970s TV cop or the fictional murderous barber of Johnny Depp fame, claims he was twice caught smoking inside Old Trafford.
Manchester United has not commented on rumours that the pair will be award medals.
“This guy was nothing but a bully. He’s there to protect the fans – not attack them. I’m lucky he didn’t kill me,” Sweeney, 46, told The Sun while prejudicing the case in one move.
“I agreed to leave without a fuss. But as we headed along the concourse he shoved me in the back three or four times with real aggression
“When I protested he told me he was entitled to ‘use reasonable force’. With that he led to the top of the stairs and pushed me straight down.
“I wasn’t drunk. I’d had a pint and a half of Guinness but I can’t drink more because of my condition,” he added.
It’s the first time that being a Citeh fan has officially been defined a ‘condition’.