As the start of the 2011/2012 football season draws near, the traditional curtain raising event, the FA Community Shield, saw bitter rivals United take on their Manchester counter parts City. In what is often branded a ‘glorified friendly’ the losing side were always likely to point to this as a mere stepping stone in the ultimate goal of getting fit for the season. However, with local pride at stake, and the opportunity to strike an early blow in what could be an enthralling title race, nobody was taking this game lightly. For United fans, there was an unfamiliar feel to the line up, with new goalkeeper David De Gea taking to the field in place of the retired Edwin Van Der Sar, and new signing Ashley Young starting on the left with youngster Danny Welbeck upfront in what was pacey United side. City’s new £38 million signing Sergio Aguero could only secure a place on the bench, as the red and blue half of Manchester locked horns in what was a classic derby encounter.
Any questions about the desire to win the game were quickly dispelled as both sides started the game at high pace and intensity, with United looking imperious in possession whilst surprisingly vulnerable from set pieces. Micah Richards added further fuel to what was an already heated contest with a rash lunge on Ashley Young, which the England defender was fortunate to have not seen red for. United made the running in the first half, with plenty of possession although disappointingly they rarely tested Joe Hart. It was therefore against the run of play that City took the lead, after a clumsy challenge from Patrice Evra awarded City a free kick on the edge of the area, which Joleon Lescott willingly nodded home after indecision in the United defence. A 1-0 half time score seemed harsh on United, yet things got even worse before the interval, as Edin Dzeko’s powerful shot from 30 yards somehow evaded De Gea, much to the bewilderment of most in attendance. Replays showed that the young United keeper was slow to react to the shot, and caught on his heels as the ball sailed past him.
Although United faced a seemingly improbable half time deficit, there was much to be positive about the performance, with City’s goals a result of individual United error as opposed to good City play. Half time substitutions saw another of Uniteds new recruits Phil Jones take to the field, as well as Jonny Evans and the mercurial Tom Cleverley on return from his loan spell at Wigan last season. Such an inexperienced line up left fears lingering that United could end up on the end of a hiding, however what ensued was a sensational 45 minutes of swashbuckling United attacking play with Cleverley in particular taking the game to City and staking a real claim for a place in the United first team. The come back began on 51 minutes, as Ashley Young’s wicked freekick was smartly steered home by Chris Smalling to give United a much needed life line. With a route back into the game now secured, United never looked back as City typically sat back trying to protect what now looked a very precarious lead.
6 minutes later United were level, after what is a very very early contender for goal of the season. A delightful interchange between Nani, Rooney and Cleverley, who provided the final pass, allowed Nani to round Joe Hart before chipping the ball into the roof of the net, a fine reward for a splendid United resurgence. With City on the ropes, United continued to apply the pressure with Cleverley again integral, and perhaps too hasty when presented with decent opportunities to shoot on the edge of the area. City continued to be threatening from set pieces, and almost snatched a late winner through Dzeko again, only for his tame shot to fall straight into De Gea’s arms. However, there was to be a late twist, as a seemingly routine long clearance was inadequately dealt with by Vincent Kompany, allowing Nani to burst through on goal, and round Joe Hart to dispatch City again in stoppage time. In truth, the scoreline tells a different story to a game in which United were very unfortunate to be trailing by 2 goals. United however have a unique way of doing things , and late drama is almost a guarantee when it comes to derby day’s it seems. Long may it continue!
Ratings (out of 10)
De Gea – 5 Disappointing error in first half, recovered well second to deny Johnson.
Smalling – 7 Confident on the ball, pacey and strong in the air.
Ferdinand – 6 Surprisingly struggled against aerial threat.
Vidic – 6 Calming influence, should have closed down Dzeko better for 2nd goal.
Evra – 6 Solid without being brilliant.
Nani – MOTM 9 Majestic on the ball,posed constant threat, 2 very well taken goals.
Carrick – 6 Still lacking required movement, but solid until half time.
Anderson – 8 Ran the midfield with skill and discipline. Fine performance.
Young – 7 Impressed on full debut, brilliant delivery for 1st goal.
Rooney – 7 Allowed others to flourish with clever movement and passing.
Welbeck -7 Always available, neat one touch passing.
Cleverley – 8 Changed the game second half with dynamism and passing.
Jones – 7 Calm on the ball, strong in the tackle.
Evans – 7 Likewise Jones, provided a base for attack.
Rafael – 6 Solid even if out of position