Manchester City 1 (Kompany 45’+1) – Manchester United 0
Man of the Match – Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
It was billed as the ‘derby game of all derby games’, the ‘unmissable’ match. And, it did live up to its billing.
In the biggest game of the English domestic season, a game that would almost decide who would win the coveted Premier League trophy, on a cold night in Manchester, Manchester City finally seem to be emerging from the shadow of their much celebrated cross town rivals, Manchester United.
A packed Etihad crowd, and over 650 million viewers worldwide watched on, as the rising blue wave of Manchester took on its blood red counterpart. The prize was massive. Watching from the stands was Diego Maradona, probably the greatest footballer to have lived, and Noel Gallagher, the Oasis musician and a lifelong City fan.
Surprisingly, or rather disappointingly, Sir Alex named what seemed a defensive unit, to counter Manchester City’s talented attackers. The usual names such as Danny Wellbeck, and Antonio Valencia were named on the bench, as Fergie decided to stick to his old guard, comprising Paul Scholes, Welsh wing wizard Ryan Giggs and South Korean Park Ji-Sung. In defence, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling started. This probably indicated Fergie’s intent to break up play and not allow a repeat of October’s 6-1 humbling at Old Trafford.
There were no surprises from Roberto Mancini. His 4-2-2-2 formation has served his side well as of late. With Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero scoring goals for fun, it was all but procedural to name them on the team sheet.
Despite starting with a defensive looking unit, it was United who seemed to be making early inroads into Manchester City, with some neat passing. Wayne Rooney, playing as the lone striker, stuck to his task of frustrating City captain Vincent Kompany. Michael Carrick had a shot blocked by the Belgian, after Joe Hart could only punch the ball away.
Manchester City made their first real foray on 15 minutes, when some delightful footwork from Samir Nasri saw him beat 3 United defenders, and set up Tevez, whose low cross was cleared by Phil Jones.
Vincent Kompany got the first of many yellow cards on the evening for a nudge on Wayne Rooney, as things started to get more feisty on the pitch. Sergio Aguero made a complete hash of a volley, though he had more time to control it than he thought. Pablo Zabaleta too missed a smiliar opportunity.
Then, came the decisive moment of the match. David Silva’s corner was headed in thumpingly by Vincent Kompany, in first half stoppage time. Jolean Lescott, Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure had positioned themselves perfectly for the corner. While Lescott drew in the attentions of Ferdinand, and to some extent Smalling, Tevez gave de Gea barely an inch of space. Kompany’s header was powerful and decisive, as he rose above Smalling, to head home, and send the crowd into raptures.
The second half started at almost similar pace as the first, and Fergie decided to twitch it, as he bought on striker Danny Wellbeck to replace Park Ji-Sung. City, turned rather negative from that point on as Carlos Tevez made way for Dutch defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong.
United, despite keeping possession for large periods, barely threatened City keeper Joe Hart. The introduction of Valencia in place of Scholes in the 78th minute did little to alter the direction of play. The tireless Yaya Toure had a shot on goal, but it went wide, as City looked to shut down the game.
Nigel de Jong then mistimed a tackle on Danny Wellbeck, which got him a yellow card and also sparked a touchline spat between Ferguson and Mancini. The furious Scot lay vent to his feelings, as the immense passion looked to have surged through the coaching staff as well. Mancini responded with words and hand gestures of his own, and it took City’s assistant manager David Platt and fourth official Mike Jones to seperate the two managers.
Ashley Young was introduced, but it was City who had more chances to seal the game, as Toure narrowly missed, while Clichy forced a save from de Gea and Nasri missed a sitter.
In the end, it didn’t matter, as Manchester City secured a famous win over their rivals, which saw them move to the top of the Barclays Premier League table, on goal difference. The title may not be won, but the Citizens can almost smell it. Two more wins, against Newcastle and QPR, and they will reach the promised land.
The parting shot of the day was captain Vincent Kompany applauding the vociferous City support, who went into a chorus of ‘Blue Moon’.
Match Ratings (Manchester City)
Hart (7.5) – Don’t remember seeing him make a single save last night.
Zabaleta (8) – A good defensive and offensive display.
Kompany (9) – A rock at the back, all season, and yesterday. Scored the goal that could change the club’s fortunes.
Lescott (8.5) – Partnered Kompany effectively.
Clichy (8) – A good matured display. Rarely allowed Nani to run at him.
Toure (8.5) – A tireless display in the centre of midfield.
Barry (8) – Kept a tight leash on City’s midfield. Never allowed them to settle down, breaking their passing rhythm far too often.
Silva (7.5) – Creative, but not incisive.
Nasri (8) – Created several opportunites for his team yesterday
Aguero (7) – Not his best game. Missed a good number of chances
Tevez (7.5) – Never got going, but he did his part in the end.
de Jong (7) – Helped pack the midfield, and close down the game. Made a silly foul here and there, though.
Richards and Milner – Came on too late to get a rating.
Match Ratings (Manchester United)
de Gea (7.5) – Should have dealt with the goal much better, but made a few saves that kept United in the game.
Jones (7.5) – Struggled a bit, but the best among United’s defenders.
Ferdinand (7) – Is his best past him?
Smalling (7) – Partly at fault for the goal, but a decent display after his return from injury.
Evra (6.5) – A poor display. Allowed far too many crosses from his flank.
Carrick (7.5) – Slowed down the pace a bit, but was United’s best player last night.
Park (6.5) – Playing a high intensity game after a long time. Looked a bit jaded.
Scholes (7) – A good director of play yesterday, but not his best game.
Giggs (6.5) – Out of sorts yesterday.
Nani (7) – Well marked by Clichy.
Rooney (7) – Never got going. Was kept under wraps by City’s defence.
Wellbeck (6.5) – Did little to change the course of the game.
Valencia and Young – Came on too late to get a rating.
Manchester City – 7.87
Manchester United – 6.95