1. Like a lot of fans, I would have happily taken a point from Sunday’s game ahead of kick-off, with City having not lost at home in the league for two years and us just needing to draw to stay top of the league. With ten minutes played it looked as though we were going to have our work cut out to get a result. When Mario Balotelli lashed the ball over the bar, when really he should have scored, you had to wonder how long it would be until they took the lead. We have been conceding first to pretty much everyone so surely it was only a matter of time. Thankfully, United pulled their finger out, Ferguson got his team selection and tactics spot on and our players worked incredibly hard to get the game won. After the dismal display at the Etihad last sesason with Ferguson playing for the draw it was such a relief when the team news came out. If we’d lost we would’ve had to take it on the chin and at least been proud of the fact we gave it a go. The fact we won obviously makes it all the sweeter though.
2. In the match preview I said our success on Sunday depended entirely on Wayne Rooney. I wasn’t necessarily talking about his goals, although of course we know he tends to do well against them, but his overall contribution. He put in a great performance and worked tirelessly for the team. He’s our most important player and it’s great to see him on form. Rooney opened the scoring for us with a scuffed shot that Ashley Young did fantastically well to set up. The ball trickled over the line with Joe Hart rooted to the spot. Rooney then put us 2-0 up ten minutes later thanks to a perfect ball from Rafael da Silva. Kolo Toure, who had replaced the injured Vincent Kompany, didn’t get tight enough to Rooney, which presented him with a simple enough tap in.
3. We’ve been without our captain and best defender for the best part of a year. It was interesting to see how City got on on with just one game without Kompany. The decision to replace him with Toure instead of Lescott was a strange one from Roberto Mancini. It was also strange that he opted to start Balotelli and leave Carlos Tevez, their top scorer, on the bench. They had so much more urgency and played with lots more purpose when he was on the pitch. It was his efforts that lead to their first goal, after two top saves from David de Gea, and you have to wonder how the match would have finished if he’d been on from the start. Still, another league game where we’ve faced that horrible troll without him scoring against us. This is his fourth season at City and the only goals he’s scored against us were those in the two legs of the League Cup in his first season, when we knocked them out.
4. Tevez wasn’t the only player who had dabbled with both Manchester clubs though. Samir Nasri had a choice between United and City and opted for the blues. The same can be said of Robin van Persie and he picked us. The game was won because of both of these players though, with Nasri cowardly hiding behind the City wall as Van Persie curled his freekick in for the winner, with a delicate deflection from Nasri’s toe. “We only had two and a half players in the wall,” Mancini said after the game. With Tevez tripping Rafael to concede the match-winning freekick, you couldn’t ask for better opponents to help us on our way to victory. Van Persie has now scored against City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal. Don’t you just love it when a gamble pays off?
5. On a different day, Young would have grabbed more headlines for himself, after he put United 3-0 up with less than a hour played, which would have put the game out of site. When you add this to his contribution to our first goal, as well as his all round hard working display, there would have been more shouts for him to be Man of the Match. Unfortunately, the linesman incorrectly ruled it out for offside and City were off the hook. Young’s been fairly dire for most of this season but it looks as though he might be hitting the levels he managed in his first few games after signing. Nani’s out of the team and may never get back in it, so it’s really important for Young to keep building on this.
6. Anders Lindegaard wasn’t in the match day squad because his wife very inconveniently went in to labour. I’d like to think that De Gea would have been starting on Sunday regardless, but if he wasn’t, surely the manager has to keep him as our first choice now. There was nothing he could have done about either of their goals but he was far more in control of the box. He was shoving opposition players out of the way, outjumping them to punch away, and collecting crosses at ease (with the exception of one dropped cross without any blue shirts nearby to make it costly). He even saved one attempt on goal with his shoulder!
7. The biggest worry whenever we play teams close to us in the league is getting overpowered in midfield. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry form a decent partnership, with one attempting to shut the opposition out whilst the other charges forward. It was brilliant to see Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley hold their own.
8. Whilst City’s substitutions weren’t a complete success, ours worked out fairly well. Chris Smalling was strong and composed at the back after coming on very early in to the second half for Jonny Evans. With City going for the win, Smalling did well to keep Edin Dzeko out, whilst it was Danny Welbeck who robbed Clichy before Rafael won the injury time freekick. Welbeck has a real skill for pinching the ball from the opposition in his positions he has no right to. It was great for our Longsight lad to get on the pitch and be able to celebrate with our fans.
9. So, who would have thought it? 16 games in and we’re actually on exactly the same number of points as we were at this stage last season. The difference then was that we had stiffer competition, with City two points ahead of us, instead of the six points behind they now find themselves. If we were six points behind now I wouldn’t be too worried, so there’s no point getting too excited about being clear at the top, but picking up wins against City, Chelsea and Liverpool, all away from home, means we’ve got our most difficult games of the season out of the way with maximum points. I’m so proud of the performance on Sunday though. It’s great to see what they’re capable of when they’re up for it. We wanted it more than City did and we got the result we deserved. Onwards and upwards…
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