Sunday, February 10, 2008

City take points as sorry United fail to show up for derby..

Prior to today's Old Trafford derby with neighbours Man City most of the talk leading up to this game centered on whether or not the visiting fans would observe the minute silence in memory of the 23 people who lost their lives in the 1958 Munich air crash. February 6th is a date that is etched into the memory of all United fans and this week it was the 50th anniversary of that fateful day. The fear was the a few mindless idiots would spoil the day, thankfully those fears were unfounded as both United and City fans were impeccable when asked to remain silent for 60 seconds prior to the derby kick-off.

It was a great start to today's game, but from a Red perspective it went downhill from that point onwards as too many United players failed to show up for what is always one of the most important fixtures of the season.

City hadn't won in the league at Old Trafford since 1974, but today they ended that run with a well earned victory courtesy of first half goals by Vassell and new boy Benjami.

United had started the game brightly enough by attacking the visitors who were penned into their own half, however, as early as ten minutes into the game things started to go wrong for United as Ronaldo uncharacteristically took his eye off the ball to allow it to run out of play, which ironically turned out to be something a metaphor to describe the Reds all-round sloppy performance.

While the Reds may well have had the better of things early doors they could not open up the City defence. They were not helped by Referee Howard Webb, who failed to spot defender Micah Richards blatant handball just outside the City penalty area, in doing so he denied Ronaldo possession. A few minutes later Ronaldo was brought down inside the visitors’ penalty area, but again Web gave the benefit of doubt to City.

On twenty four minutes City rocked United when a swift counter attack, which led to Vassell giving his team the lead. It took the former Villa striker two attempts to score after Van der Sar had initially saved, but the man who made the goal was Petrov and he went on to be arguably the man of the match. When Ferguson reviews the tape of this game he will want to know why United failed to deal with City's counter attacks and he will also want to know where his midfield players were.

On 44 minutes things got a whole lot worse for the Red Devils and once again Petrov was the man who played a huge part in unraveling United who failed to deal effectively with a succession of City corners, eventually the ball fell to Petrov and his wicked cross found the head of new City striker Benjami who gave Van der Sar no chance with his flicked header. There was no argument; the visitors deserved their two-nil lead as United looked shadows of their usual selves.

If United fans were expecting a second-half revival, then they will have been hugely disappointed as it simply did not happen and once again the visitors looked the more dangerous on the counter-attack.

Not unexpectedly Ferguson tried to change things around with the introduction of Park for the totally ineffective Nani, who was little more than a passenger. It would be totally unfair to lay the blame at the feet of just one player, as collectively the Reds were playing with neither passion nor desire.

It has to said that the United players were not being helped by the Old Trafford crowd who did little to lift the team who were clearly having a very off day. Nor could Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, both veterans of many local derby games, but today like the Old Trafford crowd they were too quiet, especially in the second half.

Having replaced Anderson and John O'Shea for Hargreaves and Carrick respectively the Reds finally opened up a rock solid City defence deep into injury time when Carrick finished off United's only real goal scoring chance of the game after superb inter-play by Scholes.

United will be glad that this week is behind them, off the field it has been a time to remember the events of 50 years ago in Munich, while on the pitch it was been a week to forget following two poor performances on the bounce.

There's been talk that too much has happened by way of distractions on the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the disaster, and if you're looking for excuses do not forget that Reds had that somewhat controversial jaunt to Saudi Arabia prior to the Spurs game last weekend. I don't personally buy either theory, but I do question Fergie's assertion that we do not need another striker. Today when we needed to change it around up front with United looking toothless, there was no options on the bench - how can one of the biggest clubs in the world have no reserve striker?

Rooney was of course out suspended as was Evra following a succession of bookings, let us hope that the former Everton striker doesn't make the same mistake as he did last weekend when getting himself yellow carded cheaply - United paid a very high price for that indiscretion today.

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