Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3 : Story Of A Match
Blogger, philosopher, lifelong mate, never wants a passer-by to pass him by. Blogging at www.holtamania.com on all things Norwich and here with monthly Story of a Match pieces, bre...
How did Manchester United beat Manchester City? An enthralling afternoon ends with United claiming the valuable 3 points in enemy territory. On the blog today Matt Wallace offers his detailed match analysis.
Since Chelsea started playing like the Chelsea of 1994, the Manchester Derby has taken on an extra edge. Again, the title race looks to be coming down to one of the two clubs, and Sunday was their first meeting since the pulsating title decider back in April.
Both teams have looked shakier since then – City’s unbeaten stretch masks some inconsistent performances, while United can’t seem to shake the habit of going behind in games. Yet with United three points ahead in the table, it was a game City couldn’t afford to lose.
Man Utd went for a somewhat more attacking lineup than many expected with Rooney playing further up the pitch than he has at times this season. While RVP was the clear front man, Rooney was never far behind and left the midfield duties to Carrick and Cleverley.
For City, the big decision was the inclusion of Balotelli. Magnificent on his day, erratic off it. What sort of day would it be?
Man U's Right Flank
For much of the first half the game fell into a pattern: United would soak up pressure before attacking to devastating effect on the counter. City looked listless and lacking energy, and they weren’t helped when Kompany had to go off halfway through the first half. United sensed a defence that was being inadequately protected, with a couple of weak links and went for the jugular.
Ferguson has always targeted Clichy, going back to the days Ronaldo used to tear holes in him at Arsenal, and today it was Valencia who tried to get behind him. Most of United’s play was being concentrated down the right flank and it seemed only a matter of time before they capitalised. As you can see above, the successful take-on’s all came from that side of the pitch.
Valencia & Young
And it wasn’t just Valencia. Young, while quieter, was also having a good game exposing the space that Zabaleta was leaving during his frequent forays up front.
Young set up a goal and was threatening with his pace, nipping in behind and drawing defenders out, opening up space for Rooney to run into. Both wingers had good games and they capitalised on pretty obvious tactical errors by Man City.
Zabaleta, Silva & Nasri
This being the tendency of their fullbacks to get forward up the pitch trying to create the width that the attackers in the team were unable to do.
Zabaleta spent so much of his time in the opposition half that he might as well have been a winger, and it constantly left space behind for United to take advantage of. It was pretty easy to see coming…
..when your wingers aren’t wingers. I defy anyone to look at the passing chalkboards above and say where in midfield those two players are supposed to be playing. They’re all over the place, coming inside to look for the ball and play some passes, they left the United full-backs with not a lot to do.
This meant the City fullbacks had to provide the outside threat and get sucked out of position. Man City became too narrow, their attacks became too predictable and they weren’t helped by players such as Yaya Toure and Balotelli putting in below par performances. When before they would have dynamism, now they looked like they lacked hunger.
The point can be shown in the average positions, which you can see below. For City, they almost resemble a spearhead, and Zabaleta is further up the pitch than Yaya Toure. Barry put in some effort trying to mop up Man Utd attacks but that was mainly in support of Clichy, while the gaping hole left behind Zabaleta was largely untended by Toure.
It really was incredibly straightforward but brutally effective in the first 45 minutes. City would attack, their wide players would lose discipline and come inside, their fullbacks would try to fill a bit of that space and when they inevitably lost the ball, United would counter at great speed into the very spaces City vacated. The first goal trickled into the bottom corner (some might suggest Hart could have done something about it, including me), while the second came from overlapping down the right and putting a ball at Rooney’s feet.
Balotelli & Tevez
One of the talking points of the game, from a City perspective, was the lack of impact made by Balotelli. While I’m not going to defend Mario’s below par performance, the weight put on it seems out of proportion.
He was no worse than Aguero up front, while Toure, Silva and Nasri were all notably poor. The whole attacking thrust of the team was below par, but Balotelli seems to invite a spotlight and it was no surprise that he was sacrificed for a player I’d have had starting in the first place. Tevez is tenacious, eager and a workhorse, and he loves playing in big occasions.
It was no surprise that his introduction coincided with an upturn in City’s form. They were getting more balls into the box, running more at the United defence and testing the keeper. Mancini may want to shine a spotlight on Balotelli but he knows exactly what sort of player he was when he picked him, and what sort of player Tevez was when he left him on the bench.
It was City’s persistence which saw them get back into the game rather than any tactical shift, a lot of hard work saw Toure finally put the ball away before Zabaleta was alert to attack the second ball from a corner and rifle in an equaliser.
With the game looking like ending all square, it was a superb freekick from RVP to win it, but with notable (and already well documented) errors from City that allowed it to happen.
Nasri could have stopped the ball getting past the wall if he wasn’t so cowardly, but Joe Hart’s poor decision making on the line, stepping behind his wall before diving just out of reach of the ball cemented a poor game from the England keeper. It’ll be interesting to see how he picks himself up front a recent run of poor form as City will need him at his confident best if they are to claw back the 6 points they now trail United by.
The Final Word
All in all it was a cracking game marred by supporter stupidity at the end, but I see no reason to dwell on that. The football was of high quality, especially when City decided to join the party, and it was the confident, attacking Man Utd that deservedly took home the points, a stark contrast to the hesitant Man Utd that turned up to both of these fixtures last season.
They were helped by some rudimentary errors on City’s behalf, but they gameplanned for them perfectly and deserved the win.
To read more of Matt's work, visit his blog Holtamania.com
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United had clear goal disallowed and the results would have been 3:0 in their favor, not to mention that in their confusion City scored to make the result 1:2. Deserved win for United. Nasri hiding behind Dzeko was such pathetic sight, he cost his team the draw, if he stood his ground the ball wouldn't have passed the wall, but he ain't a man enough.
A draw would have been fair as well. City pushed for their goals and the Red Devils looked lost as the goals started coming from their city rivals. In the end it was a freekick (and a deflection by the wall) that gave United the win.
I am still confused as to how Ferguson goes about his substitutions though. They did not make much sense. I think he tried to counter Tevez's speed by the introduction of Smalling but what if Mancini had done the right thing and kept Balotelli out of this match in favour of the Argentine forward?