Article written by Tom Smart
‘Eventful’ was the word many described the first Manchester Derby of 2012, albeit those that were in the shoes of a neutral of course.
Before the early Sunday afternoon Manchester derby kicked off, Manchester United announced that Paul Scholes was to be named on the Manchester United bench amid confirmation he had re-signed with the Champions after coming out of retirement. It was an announcement that shocked the football world, in the same week when it had been announced Arsenal legend Thierry Henry was to re-sign on loan for the Gunners for two months. The drama had only just begun.
Both teams took to the pitch amidst a drizzly, rain-filled, blue cauldron of atmosphere with both sets of fans blaring out their own tribal chants that represented either the blue or red half of Manchester. City fans repeatedly mocked their neighbours, repeating the chorus of ‘It should have been ten’ after the derby demolition in October. It wasn’t long however before the City faithful were silenced.
|Rooney opens the scoring for United|
A quickly whipped and well placed ball into the City area allowed Rooney to rise above Micah Richards and clinically power the ball beyond the enormous Pantilimon who was preferred in net to Joe Hart. Before that goal City looked very comfortable on the ball and had the potential to cause United problems, but allowing Rooney and Valencia to link up like they did cost the hosts.
It wasn’t long afterwards that in the 11th minute, a slick through ball was played towards Nani which resulted in a two footed challenge from Kompany, and it seemed like an excellent and clean tackle. However, the captain received a red card much to the shock of the home support. It has been debated hotly throughout the post match proceedings with many attempting to explain that there was only one way Chris Foy could have seen it, in that Kompany went in with two feet and was out of control. This highly debatable topic has been appealed by the club and refused by the FA, meaning City face 4 matches without their skipper and Kolo Toure, who is away on international duty.
Nevertheless, City were to pay for their captains dismissal shortly afterwards when Danny Welbeck cleverly manoeuvred his body in the 30th minute after a deflected cross from Evra rose up just behind him. It resulted in a sweet finish from the young English striker, who is still hopeful of more international call-ups from Fabio Capello in 2012. At this point it looked very much like it was to be the red half of
’s afternoon. Manchester
United were very much worthy of going in at the break on top. However, they had not finished yet. A ball into the City area to Welbecks feet led to Kolarov diving in at the feet of the Englishman, resulting in referee Chris Foy pointing to the spot. Rooney stepped up and had his initial effort parried by Pantilimon before he nodded the ball home into an empty net. United were 3-0 up at the break and it was hardly unjustified given City’s abysmal first half performance.
Mancini made two changes at half time, replacing the surprisingly ineffective Adam Johnson and David Silva by Stefan Savic and Pablo Zabaleta. Damage limitation was clearly in the mind of the City coach, as they shuffled the pack to play a 5-3-2 formation, with Kolarov and Zabaleta operating as wing backs.
Two minutes into the second half and Kolarov somewhat made up slightly for his first half error with a well placed free kick, with which Lindegaard had no chance of saving. City found a way back into the game even with a man down. We continued to hold on and play our usual game throughout the second half, hopeful of an unlikely comeback. On the hour mark however, it seemed that City got lucky, with Chris Foy and his assistants turning a blind eye to a Kolarov challenge, whereby Valencia had got the better of him. It was a major let off for City, although many would argue it was in some way justice for the dubious decision to send Vincent Kompany off earlier in the match.
|Aguero's goal gave City a glimmer|
Minutes after, City narrowed the deficit even further. James Milner intercepted a sloppy pass from Paul Schole before whipping a delightful cross into the path of Sergio Aguero. Aguero’s initial shot was parried by Lindegaard into the path of the Argentinian, who tapped in the ball from three yards to give City a boost heading into the last quarter of the game.
City kept piling the pressure on Manchester United towards injury time despite a man down. A corner late in the game was met by City keeper Pantilimon, who headed wide in the dying seconds of the game. United held on and secured their place in the next round.
Judging by both teams reaction to the second half you couldn’t really have told who had got through to the fourth round of the FA Cup. Whilst no doubt United fans were pleased that their team had beaten arch rivals City, it was their second half performance that appeared to surprise the United following more. A lack of clinical finishing and some sloppy defending had allowed City a way back into the match. It was a valiant display from the Blue half of Manchester that illustrated a clear intent that a team without the likes of Gareth Barry, Joe Hart and Mario Balotelli could fight their way back into a game against the champions of England. Even though it will go down in the history books as a Manchester United win, the game will be seen from the Blue perspective as a minor blip that showed United’s true weaknesses and the fact that City do have the ability to win the coveted prize that is the Premier League title.