Thursday, January 28, 2010

Carling Cup: United put City in their place, but for how long?

In the end there was no doubt, even the most die-hard bitter blue would surely concede that United deserved to win the Carling Cup semi. The Red Devils were cheated out of probable victory in the first-leg by referee Mike Dean, who wrongly awarded City a penalty and a dubious second-half corner, both decisions led to goals for the Blues who ran out 2-1 winners on the night.

In last night's second leg tie at Old Trafford justice was thankfully done as United eventually won out 3-1, thanks to goals by Scholes, Carrick and Wayne Rooney. It's fair to say City looked the more likely to score until Scholes broke the deadlock seven minutes into the second period. But prior to that, much of United's play left a lot to be desired; on far too many first-half occasions Van der Sar and Ferdinand booted the ball up front in the manner of a Sunday League pub team, not surprisingly, this left isolated Wayne Rooney battling for lost causes.

Matters were not helped by the manager who started with an over cautious 4-5-1; this when United were behind in the tie. It's debatable why Fergie felt the need to start with just Rooney up front; was it because of his lack of faith in his striker options, or lack of faith in the central midfield players at his disposal? The answer is probably a bit of both.

For their part, until United scored the all important equaliser, City looked comfortable at the back and more dangerous up front. Once again it was former Reds' star Carlos Tevez who was taking the eye; he was causing more problems than his opposite number Wayne Rooney. Tevez could easily have scored with a low dipping header that had Van der Sar scrambling to his far post. At one point the Argentine took on Ferdinand and Evans and broke through the champions last-line of defence, but thankfully he was stopped in his tracks before he had time to pull the trigger. Just after half-time Micah Richards brought a fine save out of Van der Sar.

United were most certainly not having it all their own way; Fletcher, Scholes and Carrick were not dominating midfield, there was far too many long balls and this more any other reason was why the Carling Cup holders could not retain possession. Giggs was being kept in check by Richards and the only United player who looked capable of opening up the visitors' was United's man of the match Nani.

It took a bit of good fortune for United to open the scoring, but much credit should go to Ryan Giggs who'd burst into the City penalty area following a powerful run down United's right, the Welshman found Nani, who in turn lost the ball, but the bounce was kind as it fell to the feet of Carrick who picked out Scholes and he made no mistake, but his effort took a slight deflection on its way into the rigging.

United then had City on the rack for 20 minutes and took control of the tie following great link-up play between Nani and Fletcher, and once again the damage was done down United's right. Fletcher turned and controlled the ball in one movement, only to see his shot blocked by the impressive Boyota, but the Scot then found Carrick who drove his shot low and hard into the corner giving Shay Given no chance.

Just two minutes later Rooney should have killed the tie when he was put clean through on goal, this time following a brilliant move down United's left flank, but Rooney contrived to miss the target completely.

Somehow City clawed their way back into the tie with a goal that was against the run of play and once again it was Tevez who did the damage following neat build up that involved substituted Adebayor. Ferdinand was marking the Argentine, but he managed get himself in front of the England defender as the ball was played into the United penalty area. Tevez flicked the ball goal-wards and beat Van der Sar too easily at his near post. The Dutch keeper went down in instalments; it was like watching a tree being felled and in the view expert studio pundit Terry Venables, Ferdinand had been beaten too easily. The England defender wasn't on his toes and this allowed Tevez to get to the ball first.

Given got lucky (again) late on when making a save from Carrick that he simply couldn't have seen - it was a case of right place, right time. Nonetheless, Given looks like a better 'keeper than anything United have right now.

But thankfully justice was finally done and once again a United winning goal against City came in added time. Ryan Giggs was the provider and again it came from the champions’ right flank. The Welshman's cross invited someone to head it, thankfully the man on the end of it was Wayne Rooney and he made no mistake. The luck of the Irish was never going to be enough to deny United and Rooney who in the end thoroughly deserved to win through to another Wembley final.

In the wake of what was an excellent contest between the two Manchester clubs, there has been a lot to reflect on. The general consensus, even among die-hard Reds', is that it is only a matter of time before City win a trophy; they cannot fail with the money and subsequent power at the manager's disposal.

However, during the two semi-finals, it was evident that Mancini had adopted a somewhat cautious approach, probably in a bid to improve City's defending. But in the second-leg at Old Trafford, City didn't respond when they conceded and it took a goal out of the blue for them to get back in the game.

Time will tell how long Roberto Mancini will be given in charge, but already there's talk he is only a stop-gap appointment. The word is City fancy Guus Hiddink. You also wonder about City's chief executive, Gary Gook, who went on record earlier this week in New York predicting not only that City would win through to the final, but that they'd also beat United for a second time. Cook looks like a cock now, and it isn't for the first time is it?

IF City continue their hire 'em fire 'em managerial policy, and after all it was that long ago they sacked Sven and then Hughes, then you also wonder if this will come back to bite them on the backside and in turn this could affect their chances of winning silverware.

The media is today awash with theories that United's biggest battles with City are yet to come and that just perhaps this will give Ferguson good reason to put back his retirement date. We can only speculate what will happen in the future, but if we keep on being treated to derbies of the quality we've seen so far this season, then that has to be good. Down the years, derbies between United and City have often fallen well below expectations; you cannot say that about this season.


  1. James,

    What do you make of Anderson going AWOL? And I am not referring to his going AWOL in the central midfield. Do you see a loan?

    What about Nani? He has played decently the last two matches but has played mostly on the right, where Valencia has looked great. Do you see Valencia on the right and Nani on the left this weekend?

    Please tell me we won't see Park against Arsenal...

  2. Good win.. Rooney factor matters most.

  3. Evgenii,

    I might be in a minority, but unlike some, I thought he played ok against City in the first leg of the CC, but according to the gossip colulmns, Fergie was upset with him and now there's talk Anderson missed training possibly after receiving an unjust dressing down. Anderson will of course be eventually sold, and personally I'm not a big fan of signing Latino types purely because they will always be drawn to warmer climates. Not sure about a loan move - a sale is more likely, given the dire financial situation.

    Nani has surprised me I must admit. But the cynic in me thinks he's only in the side because the shop window is open, but give credit where it is due.


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