All eyes were on the city of Manchester this afternoon for a strongly contested match between the two horses apparently left in the race for the Premier league title. Alex Ferguson had earlier made the claim amidst a barrage of a war of words between himself and Mancini in the build up to the match. Of these words, perhaps the most significant were those uttered by SAF indicating that Man City had won this season. Mancini would however have the comfort of the Man City wins in the last two previous encounters.
The match itself failed to disappoint with a total of five goals with the fifth (3rd for united) from the in form RVP putting an end to a come back from CIty who had battled back from 2-0 down to 2-2.
Right from the start, questions were raised over the decision for both managers to gamble starting their in form strikers on the bench. But though both Tevez and Hernandez had to watch the match from the side lines, in SAF’s case, it was understandably a decision made on the fact that both Rooney and RVP are proven big match players. Critics were less supportive of Mancini’s decision, especially when Ballotelli, who is still struggling to find consistent form for the blues, was given the nod ahead of Tevez.
Despite City setting the tempo and controlling the game early, Rooney combined with Ashely Young to glide past Clichy and slot the first goal of the afternoon past a beaten Joe Hart in the 15th minute of the match. The lead was then stretched to 2-0 with Rooney again finding space to score a second, placing the ball in almost the same exact spot as he had done with the first goal. United were 2-0 up at half time, away from home. Mancini responded by replacing the hard working Ballotelli for the frustrated Tevez. Balotelli was however unimpressed with this decision and stormed down the tunnel, further adding speculation to his future as the January 2013 transfer window approaches.
The substation however paid off with Tevez changing the dynamic of the City team who continued to press and eventually pulled one back with a Yaya Toure shot on the 5th minute from the poor clearance. City again illustrated the continued frailty of the United defense when being pressed from corners with Zabaleta also scoring an identical goal to Yaya in the 86th minute, deciding to again place the goal in the same position that both Yaya and Rooney had opted for. There was now all to play for with 4 minutes of added time. Man City smelt blood on the home pitch and were going in for the kill. Man united, though flustered, however managed to to gain a free kick in the 92nd minute after the ever impressive Raphael was brought down just outside the box. It appears that the order of kickers for set pieces had been decided earlier as the Player of the 2011/2012 season, RVP set him self up and unleashed a wicked curling shot round the wall and into the the bottom left corner of the net (where all the previous match goals were scored) but only after glancing off Nasri’s outstretched right foot in a poor attempt of defending from the wall. The Man City crowd showed their displeasure with one member of the audience undertaking a pitch invasion whilst another manged to nick Rio Ferdinand with a coin and draw blood from his left brow.
Despite this however, United were able to end the match, along with City’s unbeaten run and stretch their lead to 6 points in the Barclays 2012/2013 Premier league. Though this Christmas Derby is by no means a title decider, physiologically the Red devils have delivered a blow to City, who are still reeling from the reality of being dumped out of the Champions league in the group stages and failing to qualify for the UEFA cup. Only time will tell what the long term effects will be, but in the short term at least, United are the talk of the town.
by TSS MAC
Man City: Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Silva, Toure, Barry, Nasri, Aguero, Balotelli. Subs: Pantilimon, Maicon, Lescott, Dzeko, Javi Garcia, Toure, Tevez.
Man Utd: De Gea, Da Silva, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Valencia, Carrick, Cleverley, Young, Rooney, Van Persie. Subs: Johnstone, Jones, Giggs, Smalling, Hernandez, Welbeck, Scholes.
Referee: Martin Atkinson