Saturday, February 12, 2011

Nani at heart of derby victory, as Rooney wonder goal ensures United's title challenge remains on track...

Moneybags Manchester City were the visitors to Old Trafford today, for what had been billed by the media as one of the most important derby's for many a year; supporters of either club will tell you they are all important. Having lost against bottom of the table Wolves last weekend, it was absolutely vital that United were victorious.

But from the first kick, it was City who looked the more threatening. City passed the ball well and Silva was at the heart of everything that was good about the visitors play. Ironically, it was Silva who spurned a golden opportunity to score following a passage of slick first time passing around the United penalty area; the Spaniard had been set free inside the box and a goal looked certain, but somehow he pulled his shot wide of the far post. At that early point in the contest City had United on the rack - we will never know what might have happened if Silva had taken his chance.

While the City players looked confident on the ball, it was the complete opposite where the United players were concerned. Ryan Giggs was having one of those days when nothing would go right; pretty much every time the Welshman had the ball at his feet, he either pushed it too far in front of himself which predictably led to him losing possession or else he simply played balls that were gobbled up by City's towering defenders.

Giggs was by no means the only guilty party; Anderson, who was supposed to be supporting Wayne Rooney - United's solitary target man - was totally anonymous and looked completely devoid of any idea how to do what was expected of him. At that point in the game, a betting man would have lumped on Giggs, but more likely Anderson to be replaced - if indeed you can place such a bet.

City were all over United like a rash - but it was largely down to losing possession cheaply; time and time again those in red were inviting trouble; the United defence showed signs of being overworked. Uncharacteristically, in one first-half low point, instead playing a simple pass to a team-mate, Vidic inexplicably booted the ball straight into to touch - just minutes earlier, Fletcher had done exactly same when appearing to pass the ball to the invisible man on the opposite flank.

United were being outplayed and the prospect of victory seemed unlikely - it was not looking good. But as the game headed towards half-time, the league leaders slowly started to claw their way back into the contest, largely thanks to Nani who was the only United player who looked capable of unlocking the City back-four.

Four minutes before the break, Van der Sarr booted a regulation route-one long ball down field - against the odds - Rooney who had been up against two giant defenders in Kompany and Lescott somehow managed to do enough to ensure the ball ran free to Giggs wide on the left flank. For once, Giggs played a good ball to Nani who was steaming through the middle; the Portuguese winger controlled the ball with his first touch, pushed it into his path with his second and with his third steered it quite beautifully beyond the despairing dive of Joe Hart.

Somehow, United were in front, but on the balance of play could consider themselves to be quite fortunate; down the years City have done this to United on many occasions - it happens when a team fails to take advantage of a period of domination.

United had the better of it for the remainder of the first-half, and City were glad to go into break just one down. Anderson had been brought down inside the City penalty area and it looked like a clear penalty but referee Andre Marriner waved away the United protests.

Mancini sent on Wright-Phillips for Kolarov at half-time in a shuffle that led Silva moving to the left. The pattern of the second-half was just like the first, City were on top and United couldn't do much right. Clearly, Rooney needed help up front, but instead of making what was an obvious change the United manager left his subs sat on the bench.

In a bid to make the breakthrough, Mancini sent on Dzeko for the totally ineffective Milner. Five minutes later, City were on level terms after Dzeko's effort on goal went in off the back of Silva. Despite the carping about it being a scruffy/unusual goal - truth be told - it had been coming and Ferguson was every bit as much to blame as his players because he should have sent on Berbatov much earlier.

Two minutes later, in the 67 minute, the Bulgarian finally entered the action at the expense of Anderson - a change which should have happened at half-time, the fact that it did not happen until City had equalised illustrated poor in-game tactical thinking by the United manager.

United gradually came back into the game and from that point it was an even contest. With just 12 minutes remaining the clock, United put together a good attacking move but when the ball came to Rooney who was lurking just outside the City penalty area his touch let him down - it was by no means the first time it had happened in the derby, but the ball came back to Scholes, he in turn found Nani on the right and his cross was met by Rooney who scored what will be the goal of the season.

No matter how badly they might have played, the very best strikers take their chances when they are presented, today, Wayne Rooney did just that and then some...

Nani's cross had been played behind Rooney, and because of this, the only way to get anything on the ball was an attempted overhead-kick. As Rooney later said in his post-match interview: 'Nine times out of ten in training they go over the bar' - well today - it did not go over the bar, no, it thundered into the top corner in so doing nearly bursting the rigging. It was a goal worthy of winning the World-Cup Final. It was one of those sporting moments that will live with those who saw it forever. It was fantastic. No words can truly describe that quite brilliant Rooney overhead-kick.

United ran down the clock and in the end just about deserved the win.

Man of the match: Nani for scoring one very important goal at a time when United were seriously under the cosh and for supplying the cross for the winner.

Chris Smalling ran Nani close for United's man of the match.

Smalling barely put a foot wrong alongside Vidic, his defending was superb as was his distribution. If Smalling carries on playing like he did today, Ferguson will be a very happy man.

If United have a weakness when Rio Ferdinand is missing it is when they are defending set pieces (as we saw last week against Wolves). United need to work on better communication and organisation when defending set pieces; this weakness was exposed in the first-half when somehow, United had left Evra trying to mark Yaya Toure at the far post.

2 comments:

  1. Yeah. Good review. Nani for me is the MOTM. SMalling and Vidic come close. Rooney the goal of the season.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Brilliantly written.
    Nani was Brilliant and so was Rooney's strike
    Smalling is improving.
    Like Smalling, another man who could come to United is Charlie Adam
    Have a read:
    http://kratik1987.blogspot.com/2011/02/charlie-adam-to-united-done-deal_6825.html
    Cheers :)
    Kratik

    ReplyDelete

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