Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City
That nasty little bugger did it to to us again! Sergio ‘Kun’ Agüero, having been the assassin’s knife almost a year ago when City beat Q.P.R.. in the ebbing moments of injury time in the final game of the season to clinch the Premier League championship on goal average, did the dirty deed to Manchester United yet again. It was a marvelous goal, the result of an incredible off-balance run through a wall of four determined defenders after picking up a superb seeing-eye pass from Yaya Touré. United’s goalkeeper, David De Gea, who had very little work to do on the night, simply didn’t have a chance as Agüero, despite being surrounded at an acute angle and bent at his lowest possible point of gravity, blasted a hard-right footer into the roof of the net. A minor miracle of pure will, it illustrated once again the difference between a weak-willed, arrogant, indifferent, error-prone Manchester United team and opponents who, although they may not actually be superior, have proven to be more resolute, committed and strategically superior.
After having their fifteen point lead at the top of the P.L. table cut down to twelve, United are tripping over their flaccid todgers deep into Lord Ferg’s squeaky-bum time. Yet, despite all their euphoric hysteria and spending 300 million pounds sterling building an instantaneous contender into last year’s champions, City have flattered to deceive throughout a season of interior discontent and flux., their supporters must wonder why their mercenary players could not have shown such drive and togetherness more often. Yet the fact is that United–in the moments when they executed their usual run-and-gun-style tactics still caused City to wobble. And although the Gaffer repeatedly refers to fatigue as the problem, the club’s difficulties have more to do with psychology and tactics than the quality of their opponents. Ferguson may indeed have called Robin van Persie’s performance “fantastic” but the Dutch striker, in spite of more than a few moments of pure inspiration, was just as disappointing as a moping Wayne Rooney., whose most useful moment on the pitch was a hard, two-footed, studs-up challenge on James Milner. Milner, who City’s manager Roberto Mancini seems to coach into a snarling manifestation of Lucifer before each derby match, had a brilliant day, bullying Ashley Young–whose most memorable moments were spent grimacing on the grass from nonexistent fouls and Michael Carrick, who played like a cranky sleep-deprived child in need of a cup of Horlicks and a Farley’s rusk. Their partner in midfield Ryan Giggs simply had a bad day. And although the clock has clearly run down and close to out for Giggsy’s teammate, Paul Scholes, the Welshman simply had an off one. What seemed like a very logical move, removing Young and Giggs, for the possibility of more effectiveness in introducing Nani and Shinji Kagawa after the match was tied, never took place. Doubtless, Rooney was not in a scoring mood, but the advantages of moving him back to protect a wincing, clearly debilitated Carrick seemed obvious.
At any rate, it took until six minutes into the second half after mostly cautious play by both sides before City seized the advantage. Gareth Barry, who did little throughout proceedings but ankle-tap Welbeck and Rooney, had the presence of mind to pick off a dreadfully telegraphed Giggs pass. He squared it to Nasri and Milner’s left-foot shot took a difficult deflection off Phil Jones past a wrong-footed De Gea’s stretched-out right hand.
City’s defense, which has often disappointed this season, looked after a repeatedly shaky Joe Hart well. That is until the 59th minute when Hart read an exquisite curving Robin Van Persie free kick wrong. Well-beaten, Hart took off to block Phil Jones at the far post, only for Jones to miss the header and have the ball squib into the net off his shoulder and then off the the back of Vincent Kompany.
From then on, the handbags came out and, depending upon whether you believe captains and managers should be the ones who try to deal with the officials in the old school manner, or not. City don’t. City were heavily involved in a relentless attempt to intimidate the referee, a clearly jittery Mike Dean. Ferguson and Evra chose to do little while Mancini simply harangued Dean. Later, when when Rio Ferdinand opted to play on despite David Silva being ‘injured,’ Kun Agüero had a long hissy-fit where he, too, verbally abused Dean. Later, Giggs and Barry grappled over a rough tackle, which led to a sort of halfhearted melée. And although nothing violent actually took place, both Dean’s reticence and Evra’s ineffectivety as a team leader added needless extra emotion to the proceedings.
With the game looking more and more like an acceptable draw to both sides, Mancini brought on his mighty atom Agüero. Eight minutes later,Yaya Touré slipped the ball to Agüero inside a crowded box and the Argentine striker located a hole, sprinted, dummied Rafael, zigzagging left to right through Welbeck, Jones and Ferdinand before hitting his brilliant winner.
Last, but not least, with more or less everybody putting in a lackluster performance, Phil Jones looked to have finally cemented a spot as second center half at the expense of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and his partner on the night Rio Ferdinandfor next season. Had he not been forced to deal with a desperately increased workload once Rio got tired and leggy toward the end the match, Jones did well against both Carlos Tevez and Agüero and, now and again, up against big Edin Dzeko. His bulk and work ethic will be very much needed in the match against the extra-large Stoke City crew next Sunday.