On the occasion of the “budgets derby in recent times”, City and United played out an uneventful game that lacked the general feeling of a derby. United fans feared before the game over the injuries/ illnesses to key players like Nani, Ferdinand and Scholes. In classic Ferguson style however, the team sheet finally included them all.
The set-up was very similar to that of a European away game — a five man midfield consisting of Park, Fletcher, Scholes, Carrick and Nani, with Berbatov up front as the lone striker. And what has become a seemingly regular knack four now — Rafael, Ferdinand, Vidic and Evra — protected van der Sar in goal. All the set-up pointed to a great game — as the lights dimmed in the stadium, the red flares burnt brightly against the “Blue Moon”, the two teams kicked-off.
And really, all this build-up led to some of the most uneventful first few minutes of a Manchester derby in recent years. Both teams looked set out to not concede, and despite dominating some of the early possession, City did almost nothing to try and break down the United defence. Tevez had a good chance to test van der Sar after beating Ferdinand, but seemed reluctant to shoot after doing the hard part.
After some initial pressure, United’s midfield began to control of the ball, with Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes dictating proceedings in the centre of midfield, and Darren Fletcher supporting Nani on the right hand side. The best chance of the half for United fell to Evra, who was found with a cute pass from Park, but the left-back’s right-footed attempt was gathered by Joe Hart with ease. At the back, for all his running, Tevez was being handled very easily by the combination of Ferdinand and Vidic. He did come closest for City with a 22-yard freekick, but van der Sar showed no signs of age with an acrobatic save.
The second half started with still more dominance from United — indeed at one point, United had no less than 67% of the possession — which is great considering it was away as well. There seemed to be only one side looking for a winner, and City fans were gradually turning against their own team’s inability to keep a hold of the ball. The only downsides at this point were the injuries to Evra and Rafael, especially since the latter had done so well to limit City’s advances down the flanks — oh yes, and also his rant at Tevez in the first half! Berbatov had the chance to recreate a goal similar to his cracker against Liverpool, but his high-volley went straight to Joe Hart in the City goal.
Sir Alex tried to switch things around by bringing on Javier Hernández in place of Berbatov — which in some ways summarised the attitude of the evening, a striker for a striker instead of playing with them both. The substitution didn’t really have too long to have its impact on the game. Right at the end of the game, City had the chance to snatch an undeserved winner when Johnson got the beating of O’Shea, but the eventual shot from Zabaleta from inside the box was skied way high. And that really was it from quite a boring Manchester derby — perhaps even more so following the intense hype in the media beforehand.
A couple of players should get some mention — Vidic and Ferdinand were absolute beasts at the back, and Paul Scholes seemed to be the main architect in midfield. Undoubtedly however, United’s best player was Michael Carrick, who hardly ever gave the ball away, won tackles and started almost every counter-attack in the game for the team. He seems to have regained a lot of form in his past three starts, and that can only be a good thing. Darren Fletcher and Ji-Sung Park should get some mention too, not giving up on a single ball and always chasing down the opposition. Berbatov too, led the line well for the time he was on the pitch.
Best Moment: Rafael squaring up to Tevez
Worst Moment: Injuries to Evra and Rafael
Man of the Match: Michael Carrick
Written by member Sownak27