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Manchester is Red

What a match! It lived up to the hype and pressure of being a Manchester derby, no less the match up of currently the top two teams in the English Premier League. Super Sunday did in fact turn into one for the red half of Manchester as RvP lifted a free kick in the third minute of injury time into the top right corner of Joe Hart’s goal to secure a nervy but deserved win for Manchester United. The match had a lot of points for discussion so I attempt to provide a few of them here.

Fergie had chosen to go with a traditional 4-4-2. David de Gea found himself between the sticks thanks to Lindegaard’s wife going into labour. The stock combination of Rafael, Rio, Evans and Evra (notice the 2 Rs and 2 Es ;)) were left to mind the shop at the back while the midfield duties were handed over to Valencia and Young on the wings and Carrick and young Tom Cleverley in central midfield. Upfront, Rooney and van Persie, arguably the most potent strike pair in the league, provided the strike force. City, on the other hand, had a few surprises. Joe Hart started in goal and had the regular pairing of Kompany and Clichy defending ahead of him. Nastasic and Zabaleta, inexplicably however, started ahead of the more dependable Lescott and Maicon in the defence. The midfield was pretty predictable with Nasri, Silva and Yaya Toure starting alongside the more defensive minded Gareth Barry in midfield. Upfront however, Mancini surprised everyone when he paired Aguero with the mercurial Balotelli instead of the much improved Carlos Tevez.

The match began with City bossing United for the first 10 minutes before Mancini was made to doubt his decision to start Balotelli when the fellow Italian sent an easy shot orbiting into space. Aguero was already causing problems for the United midfield when Evans won a crucial tackle that allowed de Gea to collect a loose ball and immediately pass it back into possession. United broke for it with Young and Evra running down the left flank. Evra cut with the ball inwards and lobbed it to RvP who controlled the ball off his chest and then played on Young very skillfully. Young’s cross connected to Rooney in the box and the English striker pulled the trigger. In spite of having mis-hit the ball, it dribbled into the net as Joe Hart stood rooted to the spot and looked on in dismay as United went one up against the run of play. One goal up and suddenly United’s midfield sprung into life. Carrick and Cleverley mastered Nasri and Toure in midfield while Young and Valencia made relentless runs down the sides. Minutes later, City’s misery was compounded when skipper Vincent Kompany struggled off the pitch with what seemed like a groin injury. He was replaced with the older Toure who looked completely off the pace of the game throughout the match. United were quick to capitalise from this handicap as a neat overlap between Valencia and Rafael down the right flank allowed the latter to put a through ball into the path of Rooney who was running into space in the box. The English striker promptly drilled a low sidefoot shot into the bottom corner to put the visitors two goals up. The home fans were stunned into silence and City obviously seemed to be playing for the half time whistle to recoup and regroup. United meanwhile were forced to make a substitution of their own when Johnny Evans limped off to be replaced by Chris Smalling at the back.

The teams took to the pitch again with the same players that had gone off at half time but six minutes into the half, Mancini finally substituted a biteless Balotelli for Tevez. The Argentine immediately had an impact on the game as suddenly there was more urgency in City’s attack as they flooded United’s half. A swift counter attack on one of these forays, however, allowed RvP to run down the left flank and curl in a shot from the edge of the box only to be denied by the goal post. Young did net the rebound but was denied by the linesman who ruled him offside when he was in fact level when the Dutchman had taken his shot. The ensuing goal kick saw Tevez receive the ball and then pass it into the box where Aguero latched onto it and turned it goalwards. De Gea then produced a succession of quick saves to deny both Aguero and Silva on goal mouth before Yaya Toure caught the rebound and drilled past the Spanish stopper. City were back in and the fans could sense it as the decibel levels at the Etihad rose. United settled deeper into their own half as City grew more confident. Past the 80 minute mark and the visitors were still leading before Pablo Zabaleta popped up into the box in the 83rd minute and drilled a low shot past a crowded goal mouth to give City the equaliser. From being 0-2 down at half time, City had fought admirably to secure what seemed to be a draw and shared points at home. The 4th official held up the board to signal 4 minutes of injury time and when it seemed like the match would end in a draw, the Red Devils produced proof of why injury time is also called Fergie time. Tevez clipped Rafael at the edge of the box as the latter attempted to cut in with the ball. He escaped without a second booking but the free kick was awarded in what is trademark van Persie territory. The striker with the magic left foot went for the shot at goal and, arguably, Hart would have saved it but Nasri at the last moment turned away from the wall and only stuck a boot out. The ball clipped off his toe and flew into the top corner sealing City’s fate. With less than a minute to go, however, things took an ugly turn when Rio had his brow cut by a coin apparently thrown by a City fan before another one ran onto the pitch and required Hart and Tevez to step in and prevent Rio and the fan having a go at each other. Tevez then kicked Carrick in frustration right in front of Fergie in the technical zone but somehow still escaped being sent off.

Squad ratings:

Manchester City: 5.2/10

  • Joe Hart: The keeper had a bad day in the office. I have always felt he is over rated and this season seems to be offering proof after proof of this. Rooney’s first goal had the ball practically rolling into the net and Hart could have stopped it. At least, he could have tried with a late dive but he just stood rooted to the spot. Rooney’s second and Young’s disallowed strike saw the goalkeeper guilty of not making himself large enough to block the goal. Cannot be blamed for RvP’s winner, at least not entirely. Was let down by his defenders but could have done better. Was key in preventing a fist fight between Rio and an irate fan and deserves an extra point for that. 4/10
  • Vincent Kompany: The skipper had made the difference in the home derby last season but had to be hauled off with a suspected groin injury only 20 minutes into the first half. Was missing in defence when Rooney scored his opener. 4/10
  • Pablo Zabaleta: Got a surprise start ahead of the more dependable Maicon. Was non-descript in the first half often seen running after Young to recover the ball. Improved in the second half and did well to fire past a crowded goal mouth to score his first goal of the season and in the process bring City level with United. 6/10
  • Gael Clichy: A regular starter for City but was bossed by Valencia and Rafael on the left flank. Unimpressive performance. 3/10
  • Matija Nastasic: Got the starting nod ahead of Lescott. Was caught napping by Rooney for the opener. Could not exert control in his own box. 4/10
  • Samir Nasri: The Frenchman has been a shadow of his Arsenal self off late. He was bullied out of the match by a watchful Carrick and provided little in the way of penetration or tactical advantage. Could have been an asset with his speed to support Aguero against an aging Rio and Smalling who has just returned from an injury. Frankly, irresponsible and stupid behaviour in the wall when he decided to turn away from the wall and just stick a foot out thus deflecting van Persie’s free kick into his own net. 3/10
  • Gareth Barry: Played his part well as a defending midfielder to intercept passes from Young and Valencia from the wings. Should have provided more support to the other midfielders going forward though. Was part of the goal mouth frenzy that saw Toure score the first goal for City. 5/10
  • David Silva: Was the pick of the City players last night. Good on the ball and was the source of most major plays by City. Was a major source of worry for United in the second half as he played in from their backline. His pass also allowed Tevez to set up Toure for their opener. 8/10
  • Yaya Toure: Looked a shadow of his usual self for most of the contest. Toure is the only City players to have started and finished all of City’s games this season and the fatigue is beginning to show. Was unable to track back quickly enough to defend when United broke for their opener. Was often caught napping in midfield in the first half losing the ball to the young Cleverley. Came back reasonably well in the second half and got a perfect cross from Tevez to score his goal. Was substituted for Dzeko late in the game. 5/10
  • Sergio Aguero: As is often the case, Kun Aguero was their most determined player when City were down. At one point of time he even dribbled past 6 defenders alone before passing the ball into De Gea’s waiting arms. Was marshaled throughout the match by Rio and clearly lacked the experience to get past the much slower Englishman. Misplaced a lot of passes especially when in the box. 7/10
  • Mario Balotelli: Got a start ahead of Tevez but failed to make the most of it. Skyed an early chance and his game went downhill from there. Seemed reluctant to make runs into the box or help out at the bacl defensively. Was caught running around on the field aimlessly more than once. Was substituted a few minutes into the second half after a failed back heel at a time when application was required rather than showboating. 3/10
  • Kolo Toure: Subbed in after 20 minutes for the injured Kompany, it was a surprising decision. The defender clearly looked overweight and off the pace of the game. Went into a panic every time the game headed in his general direction. Emulated Balotelli in roaming the pitch endlessly and only served to increase the body count at both ends. Could have easily conceded a penalty with City down 1-2 when he bundled over Evra in the box. Lucky to escape without a booking because the referee was blindsided. 3/10
  • Carlos Tevez: Sent on 6 minutes into the second half and his introduction brought much needed urgency to City’s game. Provided the assist for Yaya Toure’s goal and made a general nuisance of himself for the United defense.Got booked for dissent when he shoved Cleverley and then got lucky not once but twice when he first clipped Rafael’s heels and then kicked Carrick on the backside out of frustration. The first incident led directly to the free kick that saw RvP score the winner for United and any of the two incidents could have caused the referee to pull out a second yellow card to send him off the pitch. 7/10
  • Edin Dzeko: Came on past the 80 minute mark for Yaya Toure in his now regular super sub role. Nearly scored before Zabaleta equalised but couldn’t do much more. 6/10
  • Roberto Mancini: The manager evidently missed a few tricks making mistakes in the selection itself. Apparently, the whole world except Mancini can see that Aguero and Tevez are the starting pair of choice but keeps experimenting nevertheless. His actions imploring Tevez to go down in the United box under challenge from Patrice Evra were frankly deplorable, especially after he called out Ashley Young in the pre-match buildup earlier this week for being a diver (“a swimmer” were the exact words). 5/10

Manchester United: 6.7/10

  • David de Gea: The Spanish shot stopper got the nod ahead of Lindegaard whose wife went into labour. Has looked better this season and frankly I hope Fergie stops shuffling the keepers around and lets de Gea settle down. Solid in front of goal. Has become more confident in handling crosses as the season has progressed and did not deserve to concede to Yaya Toure after making two brilliant saves back to back in the preceding goal mouth scramble. Nerves crept in by the end though allowing Zabaleta to score his goal. Good overall performance though. 7/10
  • Rafael: The Brazilian dynamo turned up for his regular right back duties with a brand new hair cut as his mop of hair was replaced with a military crew cut. Was fluid in movement down the right flank combining and overlapping well with Valencia to give Clichy a real headache. Provided a good cross for Rooney’s second goal. Settled deeper later in the game as United looked to consolidate. His run deep into City’s half in injury time forced Tevez to foul him and got United the free kick that RvP eventually netted for the winner. 8/10
  • Patrice Evra: For once, Evra the defender turned up for a game. Was instrumental in keeping fellow French international Nasri quite for the length of the game. Stood his ground well and fought for the ball. Link up play with Young was good down the left flank. Was part of the build up for Rooney’s first goal and forced Kolo Toure into fouling him in the box, an offence for which he should have been awarded a penalty but was unfortunate not to. 7/10
  • Rio Ferdinand: The Englishman also started in his usual position after being on break in United’s mid-week Champions League game. Used his experience to marshal Aguero well throughout the match thus taking the bite off City’s strike force. Made a crucial block in the second half. Was hit by a coin thrown by a City supporter that cut his brow open but was ready to go toe to toe with a fan on the pitch even though streaming blood. A trademark dependable performance from the veteran. 8/10
  • Jonny Evans: Evans has taken up the mantle of regular defender really well since he was forced into the starting position following Vidic’s season ending knee injury early last season. Looked solid in defense and preferred to clear the ball rather than play it out of danger. Showed shades of the skill that has caused him to be referred to as Lionel Evans in many circles as he outmaneuvered Yaya Toure more than once. Was substituted early in the second half which was a pity after a solid first half. 6/10
  • Antonio Valencia: He was awarded the No 7 shirt this season and he has not disappointed in the role. Provided movement and fluidity down the right wing and his link ups with Rafael were a constant source of threat. Tracked back well to defend too. Was substituted for Phil Jones near the end when his performance began to peter out and United looked to defend their one goal lead. 7/10
  • Michael Carrick: He has been one of the unsung heroes of United’s current campaign as he has taken on the mantle of holding midfielder with silent efficiency. Bossed Toure in midfield and linked up well with Cleverley to keep the game moving. Calm on the ball and played out of many tricky positions one of which led up to Rooney’s second goal. 8/10
  • Ashley Young: After a bunch of non-descript appearances, Young had a decent game. Put in a shift both offensively and defensively. Linked up well with Evra on the left and RvP up ahead and provided the assist for Rooney’s first goal. Was pushed and shoved around on the field quite a bit and it is possible that multiple City players escaped a booking, significantly because of the stage that Mancini had set up pre-game by calling him “a swimmer”. 7/10
  • Tom Cleverley: The young midfielder was selected for an important fixture and vindicated his manager’s confidence in him through his energy that allowed United to dominate the first half. Was always willing to make runs while attacking and got into good positions to receive the ball from a deeper seated Carrick. Guilty of launching a couple of balls into orbit when it would have been more prudent to pass the ball instead to a player in an open position or with a better shot at goal. Was subbed late in the game for Welbeck after he clearly looked tired. 6/10
  • Wayne Rooney: The star of the show for United, his first goal came off a seriously mis-hit shot but the Gods were smiling nay laughing at him as Hart stood rooted to the spot and watched the ball roll in. But his second strike was a clinical striker finish as he held up his run to get at the end of Rafael’s low cross before drilling in a low side footed shot that left Hart wrong footed and the defense in tatters. Got into good positions often and tracked back to help in the defense as well. His brace put City on the backfoot in the first half and also saw him go past Sir Bobby Charlton to become the highest goal scorer for Manchester United in Manchester derbies as well as become the youngest player to score 150 premier league goals. 8/10
  • Robin van Persie: Was a show of selflessness as he continuously played on Rooney in front of him. His chested pass led up to Rooney’s opener. Made incisive runs into City’s half thus drawing the defense away from Rooney and allowing the latter to score two goals. Was unlucky to hit the post with a brilliant effort just past the hour mark and then skied a header for what was a clear goal scoring chance. Was gifted a free kick in his favourite area by Tevez and managed to score a well-deserved winner for United, albeit with help from former Arsenal team mate Nasri. 7/10
  • Chris Smalling: Subbed on for Evans early in the second half. Worked well with Rio to keep the attack of City at bay. Could have done better to clear the ball in the goal mouth scramble that led up to Zabaleta’s equaliser late in the game. 5/10
  • Phil Jones: Brought on late for Antonio Valencia as United looked to consolidate. Didn’t have much time to impact the game although could have done better on City’s second goal as Zabaleta’s screamer went through his legs. 4/10
  • Danny Welbeck: Brought on very late for Cleverley and did not see much of the ball to impact the game. 5/10
  • Sir Alex Ferguson: The veteran manager got his selection spot on as his team recouped after a testing first ten minutes to wrest the advantage from the home team and score he opener. Would have been happy to see his team walk off 2-0 up at half time but should have probably administered the hair dryer nonetheless as United looked a bit complacent on the second half. Good game for him nevertheless with squeaky bum time and Fergie time all thrown in for good measure and the exuberance of his jumps when his strikers scored (especially RvP’s last minute winner) proves how much he enjoyed taking away all three points from this important fixture on the road. 8/10

United were demolished at home last year where City also brought to an end our undefeated at home streak. It was poetic justice that United were to return the favour to City as they broke City’s 37 games undefeated at home streak. The match was well fought especially in the second half and City proved why they are reigning champions when they fought back from two goals down to equalise. Barring the ugly incidents at the end involving a coin throwing idiot and then Tevez kicking Carrick, it was overall a highly competitive and intensely fought derby.

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  1. 10 December 2012 at 16:08 IST

    This match was a blissful treat to the eyes ..your compilation here was a treat again .could visualise the match now …keep writing and glory glory Manchester United ..we rock ..reds rock ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Ninad
    15 December 2012 at 23:35 IST

    Alex got his tactics right this time! Looks like Robin will lead ManU to the title this season.

    • 15 December 2012 at 23:53 IST

      Rooney is finding himself amongst goals too… ominous signs for opponents

      • Ninad
        16 December 2012 at 03:08 IST

        For me Wayne is always the no. 1 player at ManU. Scoring or not.

        • 16 December 2012 at 07:23 IST

          True. He has gone from being an impetuous and nerve wracking youngster to being a mature and responsible footballer. You will see him equally scoring goals, winning the ball in midfield and defending his goal. Even now without him and RvP starting, United somehow lack the constant threat and the crisp finishing in the opponent’s final third. He has a fantastic work rate and never shies away from a challenge, unlike a certain Mr. Nasri. Thank God we didn’t land him 2 years ago. RvP is turning out to be a much better buy and the Roo-RvP combo upfront has become lethal enough to send shivers down the backs of opposing defenders.

  3. Ninad
    15 December 2012 at 23:36 IST

    Is football lovers VNIT still alive on FB?

    • 15 December 2012 at 23:53 IST

      Yeah it is

      • Ninad
        16 December 2012 at 02:59 IST

        Nice. Still active?

  4. Ninad
    28 December 2012 at 19:17 IST

    Great game against Newcastle. But harassing the referee on live TV; calling Newcastle a wee club in the NE. Any other manager doing that…

    • 28 December 2012 at 19:20 IST

      Haha. That’s SAF for you ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • Ninad
        28 December 2012 at 19:44 IST

        Only AF for me ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • 28 December 2012 at 19:46 IST

          He is a Knight of the Realm ๐Ÿ˜›

  5. Ninad
    7 March 2013 at 00:29 IST

    Chicharito Hernandez after their controversial win over Chelsea this season (2012-13). When asked what do you think about the controversial victory:

    “We don’t care. We win, we have the three points. That was the only thing we had on our mind. Probably for some people it was very controversial, for other people not.”

    “We don’t care” What a wonderful response. I wish they had interviewed him again this week.

  1. 16 December 2012 at 19:15 IST

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