If I weren’t a Manchester United fan, Monday’s match at Old Trafford would have been terrific to watch.
Manchester United Starting XI:
Rafael – Ferdinand – Jones – Evra
Young – Carrick – Giggs – Welbeck
Manchester City Starting XI:
Zabaleta – Nastasic – Kompany – Clichy
Barry – Y.Toure
Milner – Nasri – Silva
From United’s opening kickoff to the final whistle this was a match played at a blistering pace. The first half was played by both teams attacking each other almost relentlessly. United, a bit handicapped by the absences of Vidic, Smalling and Evans, started 5 forwards - which left them open to attacks from the the much-obliging visitors. City’s best chance in the first half came in the 21st minute when Silva escaped from Ferdinand and put a terrific cross in for Tevez who was blocked brilliantly by Jones. United’s best chance came very late in the half. In the 45th minute, Carrick found van Persie who knocked a header to Rafael. The Brazilian toe-poked a chip over Hart, but it found the angle of the cross bar and post instead of the back of the net. The first half ended 0-0 and with the entire City roster complaining to the referee the entire walk into the locker room about him blowing the halftime whistle with the Citizen’s forcing play in an advanced position.
Whenever I watch United play I am extremely nervous during the first 15 minutes following the break. I watch the clock obsessively waiting for the 60 minute mark, as for some reason the Devils have a problem getting resettled into a match during that time period.
I didn’t make it to 60 on Monday.
Barely 5 minutes in to the second half, City took the lead when Ryan Giggs played an ill-advised backheel to Gareth Barry, which allowed City to set up Milner whose drive glanced off of Jones and into the bottom corner of the net. After over 11 hours of Premier League play, De Gea had finally given up a goal, but in reality he had zero chance of keeping it out.
United responded very quickly, and in the 57th minute Carrick found Rafael pressing forward, but he was fouled by Yaya Toure. RVP’s subsequent free kick was a beauty to the back post and Phil Jones got his head on it. His shot was probably not going in until it bounced off the back of Kompany, who was credited with the own goal. United 1 – City 1. Robin has now gone 10 matches in all competitions without a goal, but his deliveries on corners and free kicks continue to be top notch.
United missed an opportunity to take the lead in the 70th minute when Young put in a cross to Welbeck who headed the ball to the far post, but Hart was able to corral it. City returned the favour a minute later when Silva put a delightful pass over the top of the United defence for Nasri, but his shot was well over the bar. At that point Mancini had seen enough of Nasri and substituted in the Devil killer Aguero. The same Aguero that broke the hearts of United Nation last year with a last minute goal on the final day of the season to give City the championship.
And he did it again.
Aguero, basically wearing Welbeck and Jones as an overcoat, forced his way across the goal from left to right, and then put a cracker of a shot into the roof of De Gea’s net. It was a magnificent effort that sealed the match at almost exactly the 78 minute mark. United made some immediate changes with Valencia coming on for Welbeck and, a couple of minutes later, Hernandez for a surprisingly ineffective Rooney, but it was too little too late as City won the latest installment of the Manchester Derby 2-1. This is the first time since the 1970-71 season that both halves of the Derby were won by the visiting teams.
In the end this result will probably not make much difference in the outcome of the league. United still lead by 12 points with 7 matches to play, a huge hill to climb for the only two teams mathematically still in it, Chelsea and City.
I can see how football fans would have enjoyed watching this match. It was well played by the two best teams in the Premier League, and intense from the kick-off. In fact, the teams almost came to blows in the second half as the last 15 minutes were pretty chippy. There were 8 yellow cards issued, four of them were in the final 5 minutes.
Yeah, I can see where some might think this was a great match. But I thought it sucked.
Manchester United Scorecard (0-10)
Phil Jones, 7 – his presence in the back four was terrific with the exception of the Aguero goal, and his header off Kompany evened the match. For this he is my Man of the Match. Had to doc him a point for the Aguero goal. He bit on a fake that took him out of position and left him chasing Aguero around the box.
Rafael, Ferdinand, Evra, 7 – although not a great day for the back four, they played together for the most part, and when someone made a mistake, there was usually cover. It was obvious they missed the calming influence of Vidic.
van Persie, 6 – I’m not the first to comment that there appears to be something wrong with RVP, but there really does. His confidence is lacking when he attacks the goal, unlike earlier in the year when it oozed out of his every pore. He has now gone 10 matches in all competitions without scoring, though he’s making up for this with terrific entry passes and hard work on the defensive end.
Carrick, Young, 6 – a solid effort, but were exposed by the quick pace of the City counters.
De Gea, 6 – another solid yet unspectacular effort. There was not much more he could have done with either of the goals, and he went a little Schmeichel after City’s winner which was nice to see.
Welbeck, Rooney, 5 – both were very ineffective today. Welbeck seems to be trying too hard to get back on the score sheet with only one PL goal this year. Rooney was wide open on a first half counter, but Welbeck didn’t see him and Rooney seemed to disappear after that.
Giggs, 4 – for the first time I can remember, Giggs really looked his age. His poor decision in the first half led directly to the first City goal. As much as I respect Ryan, it is perhaps time that he concentrates on coming off the bench and not be inserted into the starting line-up.
The Bottom Line
Aguero’s winner was almost as good as Rooney’s bicycle in 2011, but not really.