Tuesday, 19 April 2011

They don’t come much sweeter

It was a glorious day in every sense of the word. The sun was shining, the Blue Moon rising as we issued United their first proper derby defeat since Arabian riches flowed into Eastlands. Oh how long this victory has been coming.

Build up to a spectacle

Obviously no Tevez for this encounter, I when I saw the City team I feared the worst, - no Micah Richards and the inclusion of Alexsandar Kolarov. United have serious pace from wide positions, and with the selection of both Nani and Valencia I thought we were going to be in for a rough ride. The omission of Anderson gave me hope that we would give as good as we got in the middle of the park.

The City fans though had clearly brought their voice with them, contributing to a fantastic atmosphere that saw us rarely hear our opposite numbers (although I’ve since spoken to some of those and they assure me the feeling is mutual). The majority of City fans had taken their seats well before kick off, indicative of what this day meant to the hordes of Blues that had come down from Manchester. For United the enthusiasm was less – Wembley is obviously less of a novelty for them than it is for us.

An encounter to remember

It’s a cliché but this was indeed a game of two halves. United were the quicker out of the blocks but by the 90th minute there was no doubt who had stamped their authority on the game. Credit should go to the players for their mental strength. It’s never easy to start off on the wrong in any game, never mind in an FA Cup Semi Final against our greatest rivals. But Mancini’s men pulled it around in stellar fashion – a complete reversal of our endeavours at Anfield the previous Monday night – and proved Ferguson wrong along the way.

City grew into the game and by the end of the first half were beginning to make real headway on the United goal. This was all not before Dimitar Berbatov had missed two glorious opportunities to score in quick succession – the first producing a magnificent save by Joe Hart, the second miss more down to Berbatov’s inept finishing.

No doubt though we had got away with it here, but this is football, and chances must be taken. As the half came to a close, Gareth Barry lashed a shot into the side netting and Vincent Kompany – my man of the match – curled a shot just agonisingly wide from the end of the area.

Into the second half, and we came out all guns blazing. With Yaya Toure pressing higher up the pitch, he dispossessed Michael Carrick and bore down on Van der Sar, slotting a neat shot under the Dutchman to draw first blood. I will never forget the reaction in the crowd after that goal had gone in.

As for the players, they had started to believe. We began to dominate and swarmed forward, winning 50-50 balls all over the park. The desire that had evaded us completely against Liverpool was with us in abundance here, as we pushed United back for a good 15 minutes after Yaya’s strike, and indeed could have had more goals if it were not for some poor crossing from SWP.

The sending off of Paul Scholes was correct, but I felt we would have held out at any rate. This was our day, and this was certainly not the United of last season, where they swarmed around us in the dying embers of the Carling Cup Semi Final. There was a sense that United could have played for much longer and still not have scored, so blunt was their cutting edge. Uncharacteristically, as the game wore on, United lost more and more attacking rhythm. All the talk beforehand was of us missing our talisman. In the end, United missed their much, much more.

Tougher tests

This victory will count for something even if we are unable to return the FA Cup next month. United were building up a worrying string of victories against us, but to defeat them in a game of such magnitude has exorcised the ghosts of last year (the 4-3 and the second leg Carling Cup Semi). This game mattered to Ferguson’s men, as could be seen so clearly when the toys came out of the prams after the final whistle. Of course defeat hurts, but defeat to City is still worse, even now, after all the success that they have had.

But United are small fry compared with what we have to face. This victory should give us great heart, and we should bask in it, but we should not allow it to detract from the major tasks that are still at hand – winning the FA Cup against a talented and stubborn Stoke side (the manager of which will surely want revenge for our exploits against him in the 1999 Division 2 playoff final!) and of course securing Champions League football. These will be the real victories of this campaign. Only then will we be able to say that the squad of 2010/11 was the one that really began to change the history of our club.


  1. can't wait until you an t-baggins are in the same room!

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