1 May 2012

Fergie Loses Game Of Derby Black Jack

Picture the scene, an Italian man called Roberto enters a Manchester Casino and approaches the Black Jack table, the croupier is a Scottish man named Alex. The cards are turned over, the croupier's hand is not 21 but its a strong hand, the Italian knows its by no means unbeatable.

The croupier decides to stick, Roberto has already gone all in on his hand knowing he has nothing to lose, and decides to twist. The next card the Italian gets totals his cards at 21, its won him the hand and there is nothing the Scottish croupier can do about it, sound familiar?

It pretty much sums up how the eagerly anticipated Manchester derby ended up, one manager decided to stick, the other one twisted and was rewarded for his decision.

From the minute the starting elevens were confirmed, it was obvious that Sir Alex Ferguson was looking to protect Manchester Uniteds three point cushion at the top of the Barclay's Premier League. The words "caution" and "negative" leapt out as it became clear that United were visiting the Etihad looking to flood the midfield with bodies to try and barricade the threat of Manchester City's midfield creativity.

In stark contrast Roberto Mancini's team selection, suggested that City would not echo the same intentions of Sir Alex's team set up, it was very much the total opposite. By naming Nasri, Silva, Toure, Aguero and Tevez in the attacking third of the field, Mancini's team selection was positive in comparison to Ferguson's negative selection.

From the minute the whistle was blown to indicate the start of this gladiator like bout, United were obviously happy to try and keep possession without actually causing City and attacking threat. Wayne Rooney has never performed convincingly or with any great confidence as a lone front man, and his performance will go down as one of his least productive in a red shirt, and that's being polite!

Its a match that suddenly started to remind me of the Champions League final in Rome 2009 against Barcelona. I am not for a minute comparing Manchester City with Barcelona, but that final was a match that Sir Alex tried playing defensively in, the supporters turned up, but the players didn't, it was exactly the same at the Etihad for this huge Manchester derby.

Uniteds game plan looked to be going well until on the stroke of half time, City captain Vincent Kompany leapt above Chris Smalling to power the ball past a helpless David De Gea. City did not really deserve their lead, but in terms of how they set up, they had asked more questions and were more positive than United pressing forward.

The introduction of Danny Welbeck in the second half seen United adopt a preferred formation of 4-4-2 rather than the 4-5-1 they had started the match with. The 4-5-1 formation is something United never look comfortable playing, its not the United way. From the early management days of Matt Busby the philosophy has always been to attack, United have always used it as their best form of defence. Uniteds negative approach reflected in the shots on target tally at the end of the match, not a single shot tested Joe Hart.

The destiny of the Premier League trophy is now not controlled by Manchester United, its Manchester City who will dictate which colour ribbons and which trophy cabinet it will take pride of place in.