As seems to be said every year these days, this Manchester derby was one of the most hotly anticipated in years, with City’s millions propelling them to the right end of the league and making them in some bookies eyes contenders for the title. United however were the thorn in City’s side several times last season, winning 3 and losing 1 of the 4 derbies played including 3 priceless last minute winners. However, with many United players still suffering from a virus, and key players missing through injury it was unlikely to be a walk in the park for the reds.
Inevitably, the game became a victim its own hype in the first half, as both sides were keen on keeping things tight and not surrendering the early initiative. Chances for both teams were fairly limited, with United’s best falling to Patrice Evra, who struck a tame shot at Joe Hart. City also struggled, with Tevez being amply marshalled by the defensive rock that is Ferdinand and Vidic. Tevez nearly broke the deadlock for City with a well struck free kick, only to see Van Der Sar produce a quality save to keep it level. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the first half was City’s reluctance to attack in any capacity, and insistence of keeping the midfield trio of Toure, Barry and De Jong deep to prevent United from playing. If City are serious about pushing for the title, it’s obvious they will have to ditch this approach at home against the big teams, in games they have to win.
United were obviously frustrated in the first half, but came out in the second with renewed vigour and confidence, and began to take the game to city more with good spells of possession. Once again however, chances were few and far between with the best of the half falling to Berbatov who saw his bicycle kick comfortably saved by Hart. United will take heart from the way in which we subdued the city attack with such comfort, given our defensive woes at the beginning of the season. However, our attack was just not penetrative enough, and the game petered out into a disappointing stalemate, with United ruing missing out on 3 points that were there for the taking.
Before the game, many United fans would have taken a point at Eastland’s, especially considering City’s impressive home record and recent win over Chelsea. However, after the full time whistle had blown, United fans will feel largely frustrated at not being able to put away what was a poor city team and performance. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the match was the lack of any real passion in the game, which was so abundant in last seasons derby matches. Undoubtedly this was aided by the lack of a certain Mr Wayne Rooney, who will soon be back in the headlines as he returns for United.
Much of the fall out from the game has focussed on city’s lack of attacking ambition, something which over the years United have had in abundance often bailing us out at important times. Most United fans take great pride in the way we play the game, with pace and skill, and especially our instilled ethos of never giving up and always believeing, something which even city cannot buy. Until city learn they wont win anything without taking risks, we have need not worry that the 34 years of joy will come to an end.