After all the doom and gloom surrounding the club in the last week, a result against City in the FA Cup was the perfect tonic.
Today could have possibly been Sir Alex’s easiest team talk. People turned up and tuned in expecting to see United, coming into the game as underdogs and off the back of two defeats, get embarrassed and turned over by Roberto Mancini’s team.
Are you really going to lay down and let that happen? I imagine him asking.
City had trounced us 6-1 earlier this season at Old Trafford, so a team that had so meekly surrendered to Newcastle on Wednesday would be like lambs to the slaughter? The majority of fans and pundits agreed and whilst I don’t think anyone expected another 6-1, I’ll wager somewhere in the country more than a few bets were put on that outcome.
The reality was a little different as United raced to a 3-0 lead by half time and with Vincent Kompany sent off it appeared United could very well get 6 of their own. But after the break United got lackadaisical, we took our foot off the gas and allowed a 10 man City side back into the game.
People have spoken of a moral victory for City, United taking their foot off the gas very much allowed for a City revival so I’m happy to afford them said victory, they can compete with a whole host of teams in the Moral Victory Cup whilst we face Liverpool in the 4th round.
Here are 5 thoughts on the game:
This came as a huge surprise and whilst there isn’t a United fan alive unhappy to see him back, his return masks deeper problems.
I, like everyone else, felt that Scholes still had something to offer when he announced his retirement in May yet he made the decision to hang up his boots. It was assumed that the chapter was closed and whilst replacing a player of his ability is neigh impossible, we would at least attempt.
This wouldn’t be the case as United again didn’t sign a central midfielder and although Tom Cleverley was promoted to the first team there were still deficiencies.
This has become more and more apparent this season and whilst Sir Alex maintains there is a lack of value in the market and that we have a squad decent enough to deal with the injury nightmare we have suffered this season, the return of Paul Scholes betrays his words.
Calling Scholes out of retirement sends a clear message that we didn’t have the squad to deal with it and whilst bringing Scholes back represents brilliant business as he comes in for free, it begs the question; why, instead of signing a new player, have we had to resort to re-signing the 37 year old?
In terms of his performance today, his passing stats as usual were brilliant. Coming on just after the 60th minute he made 71 passes with a 97% completion ratio but nobody is perfect, and it was one of his passes that Milner intercepted that afforded City their second goal.
These things happen and rust is to be expected but you hope that his return will be a successful one, even if he is restricted to cameos.
Coming into this game, there was an extremely dark cloud hanging over Wayne Rooney as the Sunday papers were linking him with a £60m move to Man City again.
These reports came despite both player and club denying that Rooney would be leaving, as well as Rooney taking to Twitter to reaffirm his commitment to the club.
If we needed any more indications that these reports were unfounded, Rooney proceeded to score twice against City to take his goal tally to 18 this season. He’s done it before so I won’t be reading too much into it, but after his first Rooney made a point of kissing the United badge too.
The goals were Rooney’s first since scoring against Fulham before Christmas, and we all know a goal scoring Rooney is a happy Rooney. The fact they helped United beat Man City will be all the more sweet.
Rooney’s importance to United is immeasurable at this point and if he can keep scoring, we will continue to go far.
Kompany’s red card
This isn’t a tough one for me. Many are arguing that it wasn’t a red and that his sending off ruined the game, perhaps but by the letter of the law he should have walked. Two footed lunges are dangerous, and Nani didn’t need to stay there and be on the receiving end of the challenge for Kompany to go.
Early in the game, it can be said that Kompany was trying to ‘put the frighteners’ on Nani and United and it back fired. More fool him, as a top quality center half he should know better.
When it comes to discussing United there is no such thing as logical thinking for some.
Try and discuss the game in October with a non United fan and all they’ll mention is the score. They’ll be quick to tell you that United were doing nothing with their possession in the first half and that had Evans stayed on we would have still lost.
Yet today Kompany’s departure was the sole reason for City’s defeat and had he been on, the result would have been different. Conveniently forgetting the fact he was on when we went 1-0 up.
Kompany will now miss 4 games, a further knock to City and one that is further likely to incense Mancini who felt Rooney made up Chris Foy’s mind about sending him off.
Debate will continue to rage about who should be our number 1 as fans of both Lindegaard and De Gea stake claims for their men.
De Gea has made mistakes this season; some costly, some we have got away with. But his performance against Blackburn saw him dropped in favour of Lindegaard. Whilst Lindegaard could hardly be blamed for the 3 goals we conceded against Newcastle, today there were some very shaky moments from him.
He made a brilliant save from Sergio Aguerro in the first half but in the second half he did little to inspire confidence and it looks like the occasion got to him.
His handling was poor, with one instance leading to Aguerro’s goal and another almost handing City a goal at the death. His kicking was also off and I feel he could have done better with Kolarov’s freekick too.
Essentially this was the biggest game of his career so nerves are excusable but it will definitely put to bed the notion that Lindegaard is definitely better than De Gea and should be our number 1.
At the moment it is still up in the air but as the younger keeper De Gea will make mistakes, and as he was essentially signed to be our long term #1 perhaps we should grin and bear his mistakes?
Manchester United’s performance
Man City have compiled a quality team, so for United to perform as we did in the first half was encouraging.
People will point to absence of Barry, Toure and Hart but their replacements aren’t too shabby. A midfield of De Jong, Johnson, Milner, Nasri and Silva is hardly a weak one, so it would be remise to talk of a ‘reserve’ Man City team.
United going 3-0 up could have had two outcomes; either we press on and attempt to get more goals or we take our foot off the gas and cruise under the assumption that the job is done. Unfortunately we did the latter.
Man City are no slouches and with it being a derby they were always going to carry on fighting to the end so we did ourselves a disservice by not sticking it to them. In October Sir Alex chided our naivety by continuing to fight for the game when the result was inevitable, at 3-0 the game seemed over but within minutes of the restart and City getting one back, it was well and truly on again yet we stilled seemed content to cruise.
Despite winning the game, the second half performance made for an uncomfortable finish and after the celebrations are done we will have to look back on why we allowed the game to pan out how it did.
As a United fan you will be happy with the result but somewhat displeased with the performance, going from 3-0 up at halftime to hanging on at the end.
We could have used this as an opportunity to dishearten City but they will be encouraged especially having played with 10 men from the 12th minute.
This game was exciting and as said in my piece on changing attitudes to the derby this morning, it was and will continue to be hotly contested. Mancini’s reaction post game lets you know how annoyed he was about losing it and as if it was needed, sets the scene for our meeting in the league in April.
United now take on Liverpool at Anfield and as draws go you can’t make this kind of thing up but if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly like we did in 98/99!
Before I sign off, have to give a special mention to our second goal where Nani left Johnson looking like he was on a water slide at a theme park before Welbeck’s wonderful finish. I have been a strong advocate of Welbeck this season and again he has turned up in a big game when United have needed him.