As Manchester United fans we have been blessed in watching outstanding football on a regular basis for years. The amount of superb performances, great results and lifted trophies has left us spoilt with success. We are famed for our dramatic results and have a habit of scoring vitally important goals late on.
Our impressive 4-3 victory over Manchester City yesterday simply continued with that tradition.
It felt too good to be true when Wayne Rooney opened up the scoring with two minutes played. With the media talking up this game as a six-pointer and Carlos Tevez wearing their shirt on our pitch, the release that came with that goal was incredible.
We dominated from this point on, with City’s delusions being confronted with a harsh reality: you really aren’t that good. We passed the ball around well and dominated possession, whilst City struggled to string a couple of passes together and certainly weren’t mounting any attacks.
Then, for the second time already that game, there seemed to be a massive break down of communication between goalkeeper and defender, with Ben Foster not pouncing on the ball as he should. Did he have both hands on the ball when Carlos Tevez kicked it, certainly, but that doesn’t change the fact the situation should have been dealt with a lot sooner. Tevez played the ball to Gareth Barry who calmly struck the ball and scored, despite Nemanja Vidic’s best attempts to keep it out.
The dynamics of the game changed. Not that City became the dominant team rather United looked frustrated and shaken. To give away a goal so cheaply when we had been flying was unbelievable.
The first yellow card of the day was given out to Tevez for a late challenge on Rio Ferdinand and the atmosphere continued to bubble away nicely. Given that this was derby day, I was really disappointed with the City support. There should have been loads of insults and back and forth banter, but they were quiet for large periods of the game, only reaching full voice in the aftermath of a goal. I thought City were supposed to have good away support?
Just before half time, Dimitar Berbatov had the chance to put us back in front after Ryan Giggs put in a great ball. However, under pressure from Barry, Berbatov couldn’t direct his header goalwards. Moments later, Tevez’s shot came back off the post. Thank fuck for that!
As the players traipsed off the pitch there was a confident feeling within the ground. Having previously been worried we might have another game like the Arsenal performance, United had shown they were up for it today so we just needed to keep plugging away. Tevez put his arm around Patrice Evra, which was met with plenty of boos, before he applauded the Stretford End. You have to wonder what was going through his head. Had he not heard the boos every time he even went near the ball?
United kicked off the second half, now attacking the Stretford End, and Darren Fletcher made it 2-1 within four minutes. Barry had no chance against Fletcher as he powered his header in to the back of the net. This is it now United, keep it up.
Sadly, before we’d even had time to sit down and get our heart rate back to something almost normal (it’s never going to be totally regular on derby day!), Craig Bellamy got away a fantastic shot and it seemed to fly in to the top corner in slow motion. We gave away the ball in a dangerous position and we were punished for another mistake. As soon as he hit it you knew it was on target, and sadly, knew that Foster wasn’t going to get anywhere near it.
Ryan Giggs superbly lead our charge forward though, taking on players ten years younger than himself and succeeding. There were quite a few complaints about his PFA Player of the Year award last season, but given the start he’s had this season, it is fairly obvious he’s still got it – not in the way he had it as a 21-year-old, but his experience, determination and crossing (not usually from corners) has been a massive boost.
We kept the pressure on, attack after attack after attack. We knew we could win this game, we knew we were the better team, it was just about getting one of our many chances in to the back of the net. Whilst City weren’t playing a defensive game, they had little choice but to camp out in their own half, given the pressure we were putting them under.
Berbatov had another great opportunity to score but Shay Given did well to keep his powerful header out. The goal had to be coming, surely. A couple of minutes later, another brilliant piece of football from Giggs, another Berbatov header, and another great save. Another couple of minutes passed and Giggs lashed a volley which was again blocked by Given. Usually, maybe it would start to feel like it just wasn’t going to be our day, but I didn’t sense that at all. The crowd were urging our players forward and really believing we had at least another goal in this.
Every time City got the ball, they passed it straight back to a United player. They were totally rattled and couldn’t find one of their own players for love nor money, (emphasis on the money).
Then, with ten minutes to go, Giggs and Evra, who had been superb down that left flank, combined again to see another Giggsy ball floated in to the box. Fletcher was again on the end of it and made it 3-2, celebrating with the opposite corner this time. Ten minutes? Let’s just concentrate now and keep on doing what we’re doing.
The goal woke City up a bit and with the exception of Stephen Ireland, began passing it to their own players. Shaun Wright-Phillips had a go with two minutes to play which had the City fans cheering, believing it had gone in. No such luck for them and we made the most of mocking their reaction.
Two minutes later though and they were celebrating for real. What the fuck was going through Rio Ferdinand’s mind I will never know. The fourth official was on the touch line ready to announce the injury time to be played, we were comfortably 3-2 up, all we needed to do was hold on to the bloody ball. But Rio thought he’d be a clever dick and flicked the ball up – was he trying to flick it over Bellamy’s head? Why would he be trying to do that? Fucking madness. Bellamy raced away and looked as though he’d taken the ball too far, but still found a way to creep past Foster. Fucking devastating. We’d bossed this match and we deserved the points, yet here we were in injury time, conceding a third equalising goal because of a third mistake.
The City fans went wild as their players ate in to injury time with their celebration. Given foolishly turned to the Stretford End, jumping up and down, his fists clenched, giving it everything. He would live to regret that over zealous celebration in front of our fans though.
United made a substitution and we were now in desperate need of a goal. COME on United, fucking DO these bastards. I was livid.
Rooney had a go from distance and it went high over the bar. Given took as long as he could with the resulting goal-kick, leading Giggsy to complain to the referee. The celebration, the substitution and Given’s time wasting had all been noted by the ref – he wasn’t going to let City off. He played every second of time we were owed.
It was surely our last chance for a goal as Giggs picked the ball up just outside the box. He played an excellent pass to Michael Owen, who’d been on the field for just over ten minutes. Using the outside of his boot, Owen guided his first chance of the game past Given and the stadium erupted.
I felt like my insides were going to explode out of my body. It was absolutely bedlum with the whole ground (with the exception of the blue triangle in the corner) bouncing and shouting. I’m bruised all over today though and have even found myself with a bit of a limp thanks to the gashes and welts on my shins which I presumably picked up from the row of seats in front. And that’s what it’s all about! Joy so intense you don’t have a fucking clue what you’re doing. All those wankers who leave five or more minutes early, you missed one of the best moments ever.
Owen wheeled away in front of the Stretford End and then celebrated in front of the North Stand, with Gary Neville probably the only person down there looking happier. It makes you think now that City have shamelessly kicked out Richard Dunne, where do their players get their passion from? Would captain Toure have behaved in even a similar way to Neville had the situation been reversed? Course not. Mark Hughes described Neville as a ‘lunatic’ in his post-match interview, which has been picked up by the press as a criticism. Maybe it was intended that way by ol’ Sparky, but I wouldn’t want our captain to behave in any other way following an injury time winner against our local rivals. Lunatic, mad man, nutcase, yeh that’s about right – pretty accurately describes all United fans in the aftermath of Owen’s winner.
Good on Owen for putting that away and showing more clearly than ever what a good deal we’ve got, particularly in comparison to the vast sums City have paid out for that Argie bastard.
As for Bellamy’s attack of the United fan, you have to wonder what the FA (and the police) are going to do about this. There can be no claims of self-defence for this prick. Whilst the fan who ran on was daft, more because he will automatically be banned from attending matches for three years, the fact he had his arms pulled behind his back when Bellamy chose to run over and strike him in the face makes the Welsh midget the real prick here. Cantona got banned for months for kicking a fan who was hurling abuse at him – what should Bellamy’s punishment be for attacking a restrained fan? Just a week after Adebayor clearly intentionally kicked van Persie in the face and Hughes defended him, Sparky has been sticking up for another thug in his team, claiming the fan is the one in the wrong. What? He ran on the pitch so therefore deserves a smack in the face? What the fuck has he been smoking recently?
So, where does this leave us? Three matches in a row we have now beaten teams who were undefeated before facing us. Against City we gifted them the opportunities for their three goals, toying with them I suppose (!), yet still went on to win. Against Spurs we played for half an hour with ten men yet still went on score another goal. I thought this was supposed to be the worst squad in years?
There will have been lessons learnt yesterday without us having the pay the price for them. After Rooney’s lack of concentration almost cost us the win against Arsenal in our last home game, Ferdinand did the exact same yesterday. That shit has got to stop! We’ve got away with it so far but there isn’t always going to be an offside flag or Owen goal to save us!
All in all though, we have to be happy with our start to the season. We’re looking good, not great yet, but good, which is more than can be said of a lot of our season starts!
But there’s no need to get too carried away. It is only City after all, but their team could be worth £300m or £30, it’s always going to feel great to beat them, particularly in the fashion that we did. Essentially though, yesterday was just bloody good fun and a great way to silence our “noisy neighbour”. They’ve been talking the talk for weeks, Mark Hughes leading the way, but they were absolutely battered in that second half, whatever the scoreline says.
We’ll never die.