Sunday, 11 September 2005

Manchester United 1 Manchester City 1

After a long season break for the World Cup qualifiers, the serious business of Premiership football resumes and this weekend it is the even more serious business of the Manchester Derby, Red versus Blue, with pride, points and league standings all at stake.

Despite the importance of the match, manager Sir Alex Ferguson decides to rest some of the senior players before the Champions League game away to Villarreal on September 14th and the following weekend's massive match against local rivals and current European Champions Liverpool. There's no place for club captain Roy Keane nor Welsh winger Ryan Giggs, Ronaldo is missing due to the sad loss of his father and Gary Neville and Wes Brown are both still injured.

Despite the weird 4-3-3 lineup, featuring the odd sounding midfield of Fletcher-Smith-Park, Manchester United quickly settle into their game and steadily begin to put Manchester City's defence under pressure. The Sky Blues have little to offer apart from the occasional counterattack down United's left wing but the Red defence mops up easily.

The new look midfield is working surprisingly well so far, with South Korean newbie Jung_Il Park, in for Giggs, taking a free role down both wings and Alan Smith, playing a little deep, in place of iconic team captain Roy Keane.

Wayne Rooney, a player who I believe could be better than Diego Maradona if he's allowed to develop properly, is having a relatively quiet game, possibly a little stale after England's won one, lost one World Cup matches.

Paul Scholes

The match becomes a slightly dull midfield struggle for control with neither side looking particularly sharp until, right at the end of the first half, Paul Scholes drives forward a free kick which Ruud van Nistelrooy meets firmly on the volley. City Keeper David James, disappointing for England, pulls off an impressive one-handed instinctive diving save but his skill goes unrewarded as the ball rebounds straight to Ruud who makes no mistake and it's GOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLL! 1-0 to United!

City are visibly deflated by the late first half goal but still full of resistance, this IS the Manchester derby after all, as the second half gets underway. Not much has changed from the first half, a lot of midfield toiling away with United being more assertive and looking for a second goal and City defending for all they're worth.

Alan Smith is looking solid in his new central midfield role and, in the absence of Ronaldo and Giggs, Rooney and Scholes are handling all the dead ball situations.

Over an hour gone now and the Sky Blues' need for a goal grows urgent but, despite the presence of former Red Andy Cole upfront, they can't find a way through United's defence. With under twenty minutes left, City's impressive manager Stuart Pearce makes a double substitution in midfield. They are obviously desperate to get something out of the game as even a draw will keep them ahead of the Red Devils.

Joey Barton

Suddenly, in the 75th minute, it all changes for Manchester City. A cross into the United box from City's right wing is missed by everybody and ends up on the left. After a couple of ricochets the ball ends up at the feet of City's new striker Darius Vassell. He shoots and the ball hits City midfielder Joey Barton and it's an unlikely GOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL for The Blues.
It's 1-1 and the first goal United have conceded all season.

Almost immediately, Sir Alex brings on both Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs, followed a few moments later by Kieron Richardson. Can they save the day for United or is there simply too little time left for a comeback?

Unfortunately it's the latter, in fact United almost lost the match in the last minute of extra time. City break down United's left (again) and a fast low cross is met by ex-Red Andy Cole but his quick shot is blocked by Edwin Van Der Sar and that's it.

A fantastic result for City, who remain ahead of United in the Premiership table, albeit having played a game more.

A disappointing result for Manchester United, points dropped, a goal conceded and drawing at home to City feels almost as bad as defeat.

This review is cross-posted here at BlogCritics.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
alienboy said...

The previous commnet was some cheap loser posting spam.

Little Devil said...

Happened to come across your blog by chance. Nice set up you have here.

Here's my take on the derby match. I think united suffered a bit from tired legs after the world cup ties. I think rooney was a bit deflated as well and with ronaldo out we lacked inspiration or creativity.

But pray tell me why, is Giggs not starting the games. Honestly speaking - i think it should always be giggs - keane - scholes - ronaldo starting every game.

ah well , i am not alex ferguson, and i hope the gaffer has some tricks up his sleeve left.

alienboy said...

Hi Little Devil,

Thanks for visiting. I was hoping to review every match Manchester United play this season but I've already missed one.

Unfortunately, Wednesday's Champions League fixture against Villarreal, Diego Forlan's successful new home, clashed with my birthday celebrations and couldn't be covered. Still had a great time and I hope it won't devalue this blog too much.

I know what you mean about the midfield and it would be great to have some stability there. Apart from the fitness problems that Keane and Giggs have been having recently, we seem to keep changing formation a lot. So far this season, we've seen 4-5-1, 4-3-3 and the old favourite 4-4-2. Add in the differing challenges of domestic and European football and the whole lineup question becomes more complicated.

The main thing is that the squad is stronger and fitter than last season, and provided we don't have too many injuries too soon, stand a really good chance of picking up some major honours this time around.

Now for Liverpool on Sunday!

Little Devil said...

Well you didnt miss much in the villareal game. Talking point was rooney getting sent off.

I say bollocks to the ref. Maybe i am prejudiced when it comes to Rooney :-) .

But it was a point - though United should have taken all three.

Van Der Sar was good in goal. Kieran came in at Left Back - strangely enough he was more effective than Hienze

Ronaldo was pacy but inconsistent

Rooney was kind of tired. The kid runs everywhere. Someone should tell him he's just a striker.

Ruud was pathetic. His lay offs were bad. He couldnt divert long balls into the team-mates paths. He didnt get a shot off.

Here's a nice little stat for you. I have watched every single goal which Ruud has scored to date . There are zero goals scored from outside the penalty area.
There is just one goal - where he is dribbled from just beyond the halfway line and converted.

Well anyway. As long as we win the treble again :-) .

And a small comment on your formations.

Whatever happened to good old 4-4-2 ??

alienboy said...

Hi LD and welcome back.

Well, it looks like we are going to have to get used to the sight of Kieran Richardson at left back for a while, though I thought he was supposed to be a midfielder. It's bad news about Heinze, he has been vital to United's defensive solidity and we always play better when he's in the team.

Didn't know that stuff about RVN, he talks of playing total football a lot but has always struck me as a goalscorer plain and simple.

Yeah, man, 4-4-2; we have always seemed to have a preference for playing that way. It's not the fashionable formation at the moment but has always suited United's style. I suppose we could always consider going back to 2-3-5, it worked for Matt Busby!