Archive

Tag Archives: Manchester United

GUEST BLOG

written by Robert Pollard – 14th May 2012

With both Manchester City and Manchester United going into the last match of the season with a chance of lifting the 2011-2012 Barclays Premier League trophy, it promised to be a great final day of the season. However, what ensued will go down in football history; a day of the highest possible drama that brought a fitting end to one the most entertaining seasons in recent history.

It was Manchester City who won the coveted prize; their first league title in 44 years, a period in which their fans have suffered ridicule on a grand scale. Relegation to the third tier of English football saw them branded as a laughing-stock, with even their own staff recognising their problems. Former player, and one time chairman of the club, Francis Lee famously claimed City would ‘win cups for cock-ups’, and Joe Royle, the manager who rescued them from their deepest slump, coined the phrase ‘cityitis’, a word which described City’s unerring ability to grab defeat from the jaws of victory.

But all that was forgotten as they clinched the biggest prize in English football in the most dramatic of circumstances, scoring two late goals to seal the trophy their fans, players, management and owners had long craved. Manchester United did what they had to do on the final day – beat Sunderland away. Their 1-0 victory had, at one stage, seemed enough to snatch the title from their rivals, but City’s late, late salvo changed it all within minutes, scoring with their 43rd and 44th shots of the match. It seems poetic that the team so often praised for their ability to produce late drama have been usurped in exactly that fashion.

Roberto Mancini, City’s Italian manager, must now begin to take some long overdue credit. He took the job when many others were shirking it, coming to a new country to take the reins at a club where expectations had soared due to their new-found wealth. Since then, despite success, he has received little praise. When City do well it is to be expected; when they don’t it is a failure on his part. An FA Cup success, qualification for the Champions League, and now a Premiership title, all delivered in the space of two-and-a-half years, mean his excellence deserves to be recognised. He found himself trailing United by 8 points but managed to win the last 6 matches of the season – including a win against United – to take the title. This is a remarkable achievement. You feel if Harry Redknapp, or another similarly well-liked manager, had turned round such a deficit and won the league he’d be carried on the shoulders of journalists through the streets of London. However, Mancini is not afforded such favourable press.

The hard work starts here for Mancini and creating a team capable of dominating for a long time his the task he is charged with and he has an outstanding set of players to achieve this. Vincent Kompany grows in stature every day, with his performances, leadership, professionalism and interview style now a vital part of Manchester City. Every club needs a leader and City have one of the best. The spine of Hart, Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva and Aguero is the best in the league, and provides a frightening prospect for opposing sides. This City team is young and hungry for more success.

A special mention must also go to Pablo Zabaleta, one of the best full backs and undoubtedly the most valuable utility player in the Premiership; his grit and determination is something City fans will long remember in what has been a tiring campaign. Gareth Barry, who may not feature quite so heavily in a title-winning side again as he enters the twilight of his career, has also been excellent. City must now use the momentum this title has created to push on and become even better.

Manchester United also deserve great credit for their season. They have had crippling injuries to deal with, most notably the absence of Nemanja Vidic who, along with Kompany, is the best central defender in English football. Sound logic would suggest if he had been available all season, United may well have been lifting the trophy. Sir Alex Ferguson will spend this summer and United will be a force again next season. Only a side managed by Fergie could have kept pace with such an excellent City side, and they came so close to an unlikely 20th league title.

If city were ever going to become champions of England, one suspected it would be dramatic, heart-in-the-mouth type stuff, but even by their standards this was remarkable. Never will there be a final day quite like yesterday.

Robert Pollard is a freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter and Passions Just Like Mine

City condemned Manchester United to their worst home defeat since 1955 after thrashing them 6-1 at Old Trafford yesterday. The emphatic and somewhat unbelievable score line has demonstrated a dramatic change in fortune for City who so often fail to dent United’s armour. On a day where most City fans would have taken a draw against their bitter rivals, it was overwhelming to see how City tore apart United with guile and class.

Though I always felt City could beat United at Old Trafford, I certainly didn’t expect the victory to be by such a great margin. United dominated the possession in the first twenty minutes but they were largely ineffective and barley troubled Joe Hart. City went onto crush their opponents with a brace from Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko, respectively. Sergio Aguero and David Silva also etched their names into history with a goal each.

Balotelli celebrates his first goal with a touch of irony

This season, I had thought that as soon as United face an attack with real quality in the final third they would be punished. Recent encounters against Norwich, Chelsea and Basel, in the Champions League, exposed some weaknesses in their defence. Roberto Mancini was obviously aware of their frailties and exposed them to devastating effect. City were set up to press United and show no fear. As well as showing attacking prowess, City’s defensive tactics were spot on. United always have a goal in them but they were nullified by the excellent organisation and work ethic of the City defence and midfield. Whilst James Milner and Silva were constantly threatening going forward they were also dogged in defence, supporting the full-backs to great effect.

United were shattered by City's dominance

The victory is sweet for every City fan. Any victory over a fierce rival always is a delight. The fact that City doubled their goal tally, on the day, with three goals in the dying embers of the game only makes it sweeter. The number of times City have fallen at the last hurdle against United is disgraceful, quite frankly. What better way to exact revenge than by scoring three goals in 5 minutes at the very end of the game. In all honesty, United can count themselves lucky that they did not concede more. Dzeko and Silva both wasted good chances whilst Micah Richards also had a worthy shout for a penalty turned down.

Of all the great performances from City players, Micah Richards was outstanding. Quite how the young right back is not first choice for England is beyond me. Chris Smalling, the United centre-half, seems to be the first choice right back for England. Smalling is a talented player, yet, yesterday’s game alone was evidence enough that Richards is a far superior player. Of all the tackles Richards attempted yesterday he was successful in every one. He also attacked with purpose and breezed through the United rear guard with consummate ease and regularity.

The nature of reality

It seems that yesterday’s performance captures the feeling and essence of the season so far. City have been nothing short of remarkable and are beating teams that they traditionally struggle against. Take the 5-1 against Tottenham, the 2-0 against Everton and now the 6-1 against United. It seems the times are changing. Whether City can maintain their exceptional current form remains to be seen. However, the most notable consequence of yesterday’s game is the air of silence that has descended upon Old Trafford. They are setting the perfect example on how not to be “noisy neighbours”.

Words by Rob Toole

In light of the Community Shield tie between City and Manchester United last Sunday, Inoculated City was perhaps fortunate enough to be on a train in a foreign country during the game. It is not often one considers themselves fortunate to be a train but what transpired during the game sure makes me feel relieved to have missed it.

Whilst the last gasp 3-2 defeat to United is frustrating for numerous reasons it is not that bad. Of course, the City faithful would have loved to have got their hands on another piece of silverware and get one over on their fiercest rivals. The manner of the defeat (i.e. another last minute winner from United) only accentuated the pain.

City and United line up before the Community Shield clash

Having said that, if you view this in the wider context of the season it is not as dire as it is first seems. Whilst City have had a great pre-season with many positive performances it is important to note that we have not lost a game until the Community Shield clash. Euphoric from the FA Cup victory and the run-in last season City’s last defeat was against Everton on 7th May. Whilst winning is no bad thing, it seemed that City’s pre-season ties were all too easy. Floating into the beginning of the season full of the confidence is vital, yet knowing how to lose and, more importantly, how to respond from losing is an imperative trait that all top teams have, ‘bounce-back-ability’, if you like.

The defeat against United should act as a dose of reality for the City players and management ahead of the season proper. Losing on such an illustrious stage like Wembley to bitter rivals can only spur the team on further to succeed. Inoculated City cannot vouch for every City fan but I would much prefer to take 4 or preferably 6 points off United in the Premier League and lose the Community Shield instead of losing to United in the Premier League and winning the Community Shield. Besides, who actually remembers Community Shield winners? Ultimately, who cares?

Words by Rob Toole

Another mixed week for City; a turn of phrase Inoculated City has been using all too often recently. With no outright good or bad weeks recently, City kept up the trend with the abysmal performance against Dynamo Kiev on Thursday in the Europa League and then followed it up with a hard fought victory over Reading to book a trip to Wembley to face our noisy neighbours, Manchester United, in the FA Cup.

The game against Kiev was an unenthralling affair in which City rolled over and allowed Kiev to earn a deserved two-nil victory. City now have a tough challenge to overturn that deficit in the return leg in Manchester next week. Although I have every faith that City have three goals in them, I just cannot see it on this occasion.

Nevertheless, the game in Kiev was not a memorable one. The freezing conditions could offer some explanation for the humdrum performance, but it should be not used as an excuse. Kiev played with pace and desire and City were the opposite; sluggish and inefficient.

City’s defence was simply not good enough and was punished as a result. The first goal from Andriy Shevchenko could have been prevented. David Silva allowed the cross from Yarmolenko to be made far too easily and Aleks Kolarov was not alert to the movement of Shevchenko. Also, had Joe Hart not strayed from his line in attempt to intercept the cross he may well have blocked the inevitable shot.

In the second half City pressed more, but failed to create any clear cut chances. It was rather against the run of play when Kiev scored their second. On this occasion Oleh Gusev taking advantage of a free ball in the box to volley confidently past Hart. The game finished two-nil and to cap off an embarrassing night it emerged that Mario Balotelli suffered an allergic reaction to the grass. Rather strange and unfortunate for someone that plies their trade on that very surface.

So, City face a difficult challenge in the return leg in Manchester. In spite of this, City’s prospects in the FA Cup look somewhat brighter as they saw of the challenge of Reading. The game was a tense affair and City battled hard to earn a one-nil victory. Reading played well but barely created. City created plenty of chances and it would have been an emphatic victory has City been sharper in front of goal.

City, however, had to wait until 79th minute to break the deadlock: thanks a powerful Micah Richards header from a Silva corner. The relief was evident amongst the fans; the joy was clear to see for the players. Even Roberto Mancini showed more emotion than his usual reserved self by hugging Richards after his goal.

Richard's celebrates his goal against Reading

City face the challenge of United in the semi final at Wembley in April. It is exciting to think that if City were to win the game they should theoretically go onto win the trophy. Stoke or Bolton, the other semifinalists, you would think, should not beat City on such occasion. But you never know in football, especially with City. It would be typical for City to beat United in the semi final and lose the final.

Inoculated City is hopeful and confident that City can end their long wait for some silverware and taking down United on the way would make it even sweeter. Before I get accused of being obsessed with United, as per the accusation towards City fans, may I point out the 35 year banner hanging in Old Trafford to mark how many years it has been since City won a major trophy. Surely that is evidence that United fans are in fact obsessed with City? Make your own mind up but take that into account when you do.

Next week City attempt to make the up the deficit against Dynamo Kiev in the 2nd leg of the last 16 Europa League. Also, City travel to London to face Chelsea in a crucial game in the Premier League.

Words by Rob Toole

Ultimately it has been a disappointing week for City due to the unfortunate defeat to Manchester United in the derby clash at Old Trafford on Saturday.

The week started with the distraction of a brief international break which saw England pit their wits (if they have any) against Denmark in a remarkably pointless fixture. Seemingly, the fixture was scheduled to justify Fabio Capello’s pay packet. Not that he should be on the Football Association’s payroll after such a dismal World Cup in South Africa last year. Nonetheless, the fixture registered of absolute no interest to me and I was only reminded of it by stumbling upon the BBC website to see the score was one all. I found out the next day that England won the match two one in the end. Great!

Following the international break, the media started their usual barrage of hype leading up to the Manchester derby. The usual and rather predictable topics came to fruition. For example, do City have the team spirit and togetherness to beat United? United’s experience of having been there before should see them through. What I found particularly notable was the Manchester Evening News’s 12 page pull-out ‘Derby Special’. It was fascinating to see how the same article could be re-written in a slightly different way across twelve pages. The only differences between articles were whether the journalist preferred City or United. If City had a chance the journo was leaning towards City, if United were going to effectively rule out City’s title hopes the journo was a red. Of course all of this pre-match hype was accompanied by the fans’ opinions on derbies gone by and their predictions for the game ahead, all of which were absurdly bias and showed about as much intellect as an earth worm. This kind of idiocy is usually found on the bluemoon forum and I imagine the United equivalent, not that I intend to confirm that for you. Surely all the hype would mean the game would be a disappointment?

The game started very brightly for City and they should have taken the lead after David Silva combined well with Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure to carve open the United defence. Unfortunately, Silva poked the ball just wide of the post from a tight angle. The game continued at a good tempo with half chances falling to both teams. It was United who took the lead after Nani collected a through ball from Ryan Giggs to steer the ball past Joe Hart just before half time.

City, in retrospect, probably were the better team in the second half as they took the game to United. Their endeavour was rewarded with a goal after Edin Dzeko, a second half substitute, powered a shot towards goal which cannoned off Silva’s back and completely fooled Edwin Van der Sar and put City back on level terms. A slightly fortunate goal but fully deserved.

City continued to press and the game looked as if it could go either way. It was not to be City’s day though as they were undone by a fine strike from Wayne Rooney. There is no need for me to explain the goal as I’m sure there are plenty of other people to do that for you. What I will say is that I’m not sure what I find more amazing, the goal itself or the fact that Rooney actually scored a goal. It is just a pity for me and for City that a striker that has been absolutely useless for almost a year found his form in the latter stages of this game. The goal took the wind out of the City’s sails and United held onto the claim the three points.

Ultimately, it was a disappointing day and week for City. The game was entertaining and I felt that City did not deserve to lose and were undone by a ‘freak’ goal, if you will. I say ‘freak’ as it came from an out of form striker and it was rather a good goal. However, at least City went for it in this game as apposed to milling around waiting for United to do something, which has been the case in some other recent derbies.

It has been suggested in the post match fallout that City’s title hopes are over. Quite an absurd thing to say with eleven games left of the season. For sure, it will be difficult for City win the league, yet unexpected things can happen in football. For example, no one expected United to lose to Wolves last week and no one expected Arsenal to surrender their four goal lead to Newcastle either. I also seem to recall that no one expected City to beat Chelsea earlier in the season, as at that stage Chelsea were top of the league and had won all of their games. My point being, all is not lost. Even if City do not win the league it is great from a fans’ perspective to be involved in the title race.

In other news this week, I was outside the local shop after the game and found it rather amusing that there were some rather loud and drunk Norwich City fans singing about how great Manchester United were. I couldn’t figure it out until I remembered that is part of United fans ‘gold and green’ protest against their American owners and a signal of how they want to return to their roots of Newton Heath. The same Newton Heath that sits under the shadow of the City of Manchester stadium. The irony is lost of most of the Norwich, sorry, I mean United fans. I suspect most of them do not know where Newton Heath is. Nevertheless, as long as the Americans are piling debt onto United I’m sure it won’t be long until United return to their lowly roots of Newton Heath. Sound bitter? Well, I am!

Words by Rob Toole