It’s a odd situation when the losing side in a football match emerges after 90 minutes looking like the winner. Manchester City managed just that yesterday when they played their cross-city rivals Manchester United in easily the most highly anticipated match played over the weekend.
The scene was set for this match back in October when City traveled to Old Trafford and inflicted what Alex Ferguson called “our worst ever day – the worst result in my history, ever.” A 6 – 1 defeat was a bad one all right and Ferguson will have had revenge in his mind before yesterday’s match. City are also top of the Premier League with a genuine shot at the title and the match was on terrestrial television on Sunday lunchtime, meaning a far larger audience than the normal Sky subscription viewers could provide.
City stormed out of the blocks at the Etihad Stadium but conceded a breakaway goal after ten minutes; this preceded the main incident of the afternoon – the sending off of City captain Vincent Kompany for what only the most one-eyed United supporter would deny was a good tackle. If there is such a thing as a perfect two-footed tackle then this was it but the referee, Chris Foy, had other ideas and made sure City played the final 80 minutes without one of their most influential players. Wayne Rooney once again did himself no favours – his desperate attempts to persuade the referee to send Kompany off was almost as bad as waving the imaginary yellow card.
City were 3 – 0 down by half-time and Ferguson must have been anticipating a reversal of the 6 – 1 thrashing that they themselves suffered; that’s not how the script went however. Ten-man Manchester City fought their way back into the match, scoring two goals by mid-way through the second half and dominating the second half as much as is possible for a team missing one player.
A clear penalty for both sides was ignored by the referee and in the end City couldn’t quite manage it but the home fans cheers for their team at the final whistle drowned out the relieved noises emanating from the United fans on the final whistle.
An interesting byline to the match on Sunday was the return from retirement of Paul Scholes. Having packed in playing at the end of last season, United are clearly lacking enough in midfield for Ferguson to persuade him to make a return. He’s still fit but clearly lacked the edge which comes with playing in matches every week and perhaps this wasn’t the occasion to bring him on; one of his poor touches led to Manchester City’s second goal. Having said that, he made the simple midfield passes which brought some stability back to the United team when they began to get rattled and managed a couple of solid shots from the edge of the area.
If yesterday’s match wasn’t a tough enough test for United, they will now face Liverpool at Anfield in the next round, a match which comes hard on the heels of Luis Suarez eight match ban for racism against United’s Patrice Evra. Interesting times……..