Date: 14th February 2011 at 11:00am
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Another Manchester Derby, another breathless game which lived up to the hype and another game which was settled by a goal out of nowhere by a -born striker in a United shirt.

It was a game in which United didn’t really control much possession considering they were the home side, but what was quite visible was the fact United enjoyed the lions share of quality possession, the possession Fergie values above all others, passing with purpose behind it rather than just going into blind alleys or attempting to suffocate the opposition.

Without further ado, here are 5 talking points that were raised as a result of the Derby..

1. Battle of the Overhead – Rooney v Berbatov

How do you seperate two goals of the highest technical calibre? well its quite easy you’d say.. its down to context. The arena, the timing of the goal taking into account the scoreline, the opposition you were up against, importance of the game in context of the competition you were competing  in and the level of difficulty in terms of technical execution… for me Maradona’s goal is the greatest of all time, it impresses in all facets and the fact it was achieved by the greatest player in the game also adds to the granduer of the goal in question. You’re probably going to argue, that the calibre of the player shouldn’t come into the equation but it inevitably does, a lucky once in a lifetime goal by a player not renowned for scoring spectacular goals doesn’t merit as much praise as a goal which is the confirmation of someones greatness.

Think of Zidanes goal v Bayer Leverkusen, if it had been scored by a lesser talent it would’ve been remembered but I doubt it would’ve captured the imagination in the same way as it did because it was Zidane of all people who had accomplished it, a player who you know executed it using every bit of talent he possessed and with no real need of luck. So hopefully I’ve convinced you that the player in question and the calibre of the player can colour ones opinion on how memorable the goal is and whether it is ‘greater’.

So now lets dissect the goals of Messrs Rooney & Berbatov and measure them using the aforementioned categories;

  • Arena: Old Trafford (Same)
  • Timing: Rooney wins (78th Min, hits goal to go 2-1)
  • Opposition: Rooney wins (City are a tougher team than now, Liverpool were in crisis)
  • Importance of Game: Rooney wins (A title decider in effect, business end of the season after the first defeat & question marks were being asked of United)
  • Technical Execution: Rooney wins (First time volley of that power, from such a delivery beats a bicycle kick off your own kick up – that said both were perfection)
  • Calibre of Player: Rooney wins (hate him or love him, he’s more high profile than Berba and he was famed for the spectacular).

So there you have it, an objective look at which goal was better and for me Rooney’s effort trumps Berbatov. Remember when deciding a goal the context is almost as important as the level of technical difficulty although Fergie’s face and unrestrained Tourettes moment said it all. Perhaps it did miss a dosage of Andy Gray commentary. Then again maybe not.

2. Art of Defending – Next Generation (Smalling & Kompany)

Match Statistics: (30/36 Successful Passes, 1 Interception,  7/9 Tackles, 2 Clearances, 1 Block) Kompany Match Statistics: (42/46 Successful Passes, 5 Interceptions, 4/4 Tackles, 7/8 Clearances)

I’ve been saying for quite a while that in my opinion the level of defending in terms of  world football, let alone the Premiership looked at in isolation is suffering from a lack of top quality defenders at their physical peak and hence the likes of Messi and  whilst being undoubted geniuses, aren’t really being tested whilst experiencing their own relative peaks. Its what great forwards can achieve against great defenders that really measures their greatness against legends from the other era’s and for me the likes of Ronaldo and Messi have been blessed by timing, since they’ve entered maturity all the worlds best defenders Ferdinand, Puyol, Terry, Carvalho, Nesta, Cannavaro, Lucio etc have experienced injuries, old age and just aren’t as tough to beat as they were at their peak. There were worrying signs that the new generation and some would say what new generation? It was fast becoming Vidic/Ashley Cole (still the right side of 30) v the World (move over Freddie Flintoff!)

I’m rather happy to say however that there are signs of recovery on the defensive front (perhaps a tad over optimistic) and we might be seeing the rise of modern defenders capable of matching up to the likes of Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney, Iniesta.

Likes of David Luiz,  and not to mention  and Kompany, playing for three of Englands top clubs is a positive step forward, ball-playing defenders with excellent physical capabilities and not afraid to get stuck in either. Furthermore they seem to have abit between the ears too and don’t look overly prone to producing brain farts, a problem which prevents alot of talented young defenders from reaching their potential and confirming themselves as the next big thing.

So lets look at the 24 year old Kompany and the 21 year old  in more detail, well yesterday as Kompany revealed to everyone post-match, he felt he had kept Rooney is his pocket and it had to take an arguable lifetime best to finally get one over on the Belgian. Likewise with Smalling, the only goal his side conceded was a lucky deflection of ’s backside and its a measure of how far he has come in such a short space of time that he’s already replaced Evans as United’s go to deputy whenever Ferdinand is out of action.

Surprisingly Smalling ‘out-Vidiced’ Nemanja Vidic yesterday, producing more crunching tackles than the Serbian and not really accumulating interceptions which is his usual mode of winning back the ball off the opposition, its good to see as it proves he’s got a rough physical side to him if the situation demands it. As for his possession stats, pretty good, always looks composed on the ball and isn’t afraid to take people on if he has to, In fact dare I say it, unlike Rio who in my opinion has never really excelled in possession as much as he could’ve considering his talent. seems quite willing to take risks and is more confident in keeping the game moving forward rather than lay it off to his goal keeper.

As for Kompany, the stats say it all really, a phenomenal performance and he has been one of City’s standout performers all season and a signing of genuine class who has been worth all the money. One of those rare breed of players who lives up to his FM reputation (lolz), I mean what the hell ever happened to Vanden-Borre and Kerlon of ‘Seal ball-juggling’ fame? His tackle on Rooney inside the box, just oozed top class defending and I think this lad has no real weakness in his game, which is always a pain for forwards trying to work him out. Oh well you can always try a spectacular bicycle kick if all else fails!

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