Tuesday, 22 September 2009

He Ow(e)ns This City: Manchester United 4 (1) Manchester City 3 (1)

The Manchester derby on Sunday raised a few questions, about both teams. For the losing side, while City’s supporters might focus on the time added on at the end of the game, Mark Hughes (who also focused on the added time when interviewed after the match) will definitely want to address the fact that for the whole of the second half, his team looked utterly shocked and overwhelmed by United’s wave after wave of attacks, and were completely under the ball. Defensive errors may have allowed City to score twice in that half, but they looked by far inferior to United, more so than in any other derby in the memorable past. He will also want to ask questions about players doubting his decisions (or lack there of) and arguing with him in front of the cameras, in the height of what may very well be the team’s most important match of the season. Finally, he must be outraged with the fact that time and time again during the second half, City failed to cope with United’s crosses, and that in injury time City panicked and instead of keeping the ball and running down the clock, they just kicked it back to the United players. Specifically, he will be furious with the way Michael Owen was left open and onside in the winning goal.
In the home team’s dressing room, shoes were thrown, no doubt, on the alleged replacement of VDS. Foul or now foul by Tevez in the first goal, that ball should by then have been long under Foster’s control. The second may have been an unstoppable strike, but simply falling in front of Bellamy in the third goal, hoping for the best, is more Barthez-like than VDS. If Foster is truly aiming to become United’s, and indeed England’s, no.1, he has to improve dramatically. It would help, of course, to have a good defence in front of you, and in that aspect Rio’s outrageous error in the build-up to City’s third equalizer was the stuff of amateurs. And it’s not a one-off; against Arsenal it also seemed United’s defenders stopped playing once the clock hit 90, and nearly paid the price, Arsenal's goal being rightfully disallowed for offside. I thought when Bellamy equalized they were handed the bill, but they were saved again. Still, the club which most famously took advantage of time added on at the end of the game, can’t allow this mistake to happen again, and trust Ferguson to make sure they don’t.
And how about those misses? Sure, you can say Given is a top-class goalkeeper (which he is) who had an amazing day (which he did), but United should’ve taken more of their chances - nothwithstanding the fact they scored four - when the game’s tied you have to take every chance you get. And, considering Owen’s winner, you have to wonder whether Berbatov would’ve scored that, and in light of that who should be United’s second striker - and this from someone who told anyone who’d listen what a crazy signing Owen was.
And so, a crazy month for the Manchester teams ends with lots to think about. City will have to improve their performances against the “Big-4” (which they are NOT yet a part of), while United need to shake up their defence, because Chelsea won’t be dropping many points this year. And that, I feel, is the bottom line- both teams (assuming City does have title credentials) will be chasing Chelsea.

Manchester United 4 (1) Rooney 2" Fletcher 49", 80" Owen 90"(+6)
Manchester City 1 (1) Barry 16" Bellamy 52", 90"
Old Trafford, Manchester

1) Ryan Giggs, in one of his greatest ever games, with 3 assists and many more “would-be” goals, and this only two months and a bit before his 36th birthday.
2) Darren Fletcher, enjoying a great start to his season, bringing United back to life with two second half headers.
3) Craig Bellamy, rediscovering his joy of the game at City, scored two more goals. His goals may have been allowed by defensive errors, but they were beautiful nonetheless. And he may be forgiven that foolish slap to the face of an even more foolish United supporter who ran on to the pitch after the winning goal.
4) Emmanuel Adebayor, you have to wonder what the score would’ve been had he played, not Tevez.

They Blew It:
1) Carlos Tevez- other than an assist to the first goal, a very disappointing performance from the man who had everything to prove.
2) Ben Foster - needs to improve, ASAP.

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