This year’s derby day was different from recent ones I’ve experienced. Of course there was lots of hype about it, with United desperately wanting to extend their lead, and with City taking four points from derby matches last season, but on entering the ground, all I could think about was the points, rather than the opposition. Who we were playing seemed insignificant in comparison to how important picking up a win was.

The game couldn’t have started any better than with Rooney opening the scoring with just a few minutes on the clock. It was a beautiful ball from Ronaldo, which Rooney would have had to work hard at to miss. He slotted it away, taking him to one goal away from highest league scorer. Saha doubled the lead just before half time with a good ball in from Heinze, who was replacing the injured Patrice Evra. With less than twenty minutes to go, City’s Trabelsi scored a wonderful goal which Van der Sar had no chance to save. City continued to put on the pressure, and the crowd started to get a bit anxious. Without creating any clear cut chances, City continued to go forward, but they didn’t have the class they needed to draw level.

Ronaldo, who has been incredible this season, and who has faced a lot of stick all season, removed any hopes City fans might have had of an equaliser, scoring our third six minutes from time . His criticism rose to a new high again in this past week, with it coming from all directions. As per usual, he shrugged this off, put in a great performance, despite being fouled left, right and centre. Joey Barton set the tone for this, clattering in to him and making no attempt for the ball just seconds after kick off. Rooney returned the favour to the player who created his goal, crossing for Ronaldo to fire home.

Our midfield has to be praised. Scholes and Carrick were very impressive and controlled the game from the centre. Carrick seems to be toughening up, and was getting his foot stuck in and he was pulling it off. He was also playing in some great balls. Scholes, who is always the unsung hero, and who has been superb this season, was spraying the ball all over the field, always straight to feet. With players like Ronaldo and Rooney who can kill the ball with their first touch, this skill of Paul’s is hugely valuable.

This great form from United has set off alarm bells rining in Chelsea. Following the (lame) goal celebrations United players have directed at Chelsea over recent weeks, United fans are also sending out a message. For the last ten minutes of the game, United fans sung songs of warning to Chelsea. “Mourinho are you listening? You better keep the trophy glistening! We’ll be back in May, to take it away, walking in a Fergie wonderland.”

Well, it seems Mourinho was listening. Today his side faced a weakened Arsenal team at home. Their inspirational captain, Henry, has been ruled out until January, as well as Gallas, Rosicky and Lauren all being injured. Arsenal defender Toure missed the game through suspension. This forced Arsenal to play their youngest ever back four of Eboue, Djourou, Senderos and Clichy, who had never played together before. Jose Mourinho seems determined to make his formation with all four central midfielders playing at once work. It doesn’t. Every time wingers come off the bench, the Chelsea team is transformed in to an attacking side far superior to the team that starts the game. The game finished 1-1, leaving Chelsea eight points behind us, now with just one game in hand. A severely depleated Newcastle side, currently with eleven players out injured, travel down to the Bridge in three days time. Arsenal picking up a point wasn’t totally unimaginable, however unlikely it was, but we’d be dreaming to expect Newcastle to get anything. However, Chelsea have five games to play in the space of thirteen days.

As I keep saying, there’s a long way to go, and I don’t think any United fan could count their chickens right now. At the moment though, our team is doing all they can to stay at the top, whilst Chelsea have recently lost their grip. Spirits are high within the club, amongst the players and the fans, and there really is a sense of hope circulating. As we left the ground on Saturday afternoon, walking in to the Manchester rain, chants of excitement were repeated. “We’re gonna win the league, we’re gonna win the league, and now you’re gonna believe us, and now you’re gonna believe us, and now you’re gonna believe us, we’re gonna win the league…” The belief we took for granted for so long is now returning, and it feels great.



------------
The RoM Manchester United 2021-22 season preview is now available for just £6. It includes articles from the country's best football writers about our expectations for the season ahead and our brightest talents, as well as proposed transfer business and which youth players to keep an eye out for. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.
amazon smaller