After an embarrassing defeat at the hands of a bottom 3 team at the Molineux last weekend, a performance which Sir Alex described as ‘pathetic’, Manchester United had to bounce back immediately and to try and do that in the derby is a challenge. At the end of 90 + 4 min, It was a challenge accepted and a victory well deserved, built on some outstanding defending by the new recruit Chris Smalling and the most reliable player for United this season Luis Nani scoring the first and setting up the second for Rooney to add to the list of classics in the ‘overhead’ category.
Both teams set out with an understandably 4-5-1 ‘play it safe’ formation and Sir Alex decided to pick the not so much in form Wayne ahead of Berbatov. His decision to play John O’Shea at full back was also a surprise, but Mancini too opted to play with Tevez as the lone man up front.
As the first half grew on, weirdly the visitors were having a fair share of the possession, which was unnerving but a hefty touch from Giggsy to find a driving Nani into the box, resulted in 2 wonderful touches to drag the ball away from the defender and a third to slide the ball past the arms of Hart. Nani’s elation and celebration was typically characteristic with the Back Flip™ and rightly took United ahead with a 1-0 lead at half time.
15 min into the second half, Tevez continuing to be isolated and with no evidence suggestive of City to trouble the scorers, Mancini switched to a 4-4-2 bringing Dzeko on for Milner. The result was almost evident when Dzeko found space from a SWP cross to try and curl it goalwards, however a fortuitous deflection off Silva’s back gave VDS no chance and the noisy neighbours were really turning the tone up.
Sir Alex refused to sit back and wait. Instead he also swapped to a 4-4-2 with the inform Berbatov coming on for Anderson. United’s persistence and grit through the ageless Giggs, the tenacious Fletcher, the rock solid Vidic finding an able ally in the young Chris Smalling, were able to conjure some good momentum goalwards.
And soon enough, an ensuing cross from Nani, took a deflection of Zabaleta falling kind for Rooney, who had no second thoughts on immediately improvising to catch the ball right in the middle with a beauty of an overhead finding the top corner of Hart’s far post. Of such high quality was the strike that for a moment, you could feel the entire crowds’ AWE turning into a rapturous celebration. Wayne Rooney put his arms outstretched, acknowledging the unbelievable feat he had just achieved, a strike worthy any day of being the goal of the season.
United showed no signs of faltering in the remaining 10-15 min to cap off a wonderful way to bounce back after an embarrassing defeat last weekend which ended their unbeaten run.
To sum up
- Rooney’s goal was a pleasure to witness, and it had CLASS written all over it. It augurs well for him to have scored what could very much be the record breaking 19th title winning goal.
- Chris Smalling’s performance was no doubt top notch, one which even Rio sitting in the dugout would be proud of. Supporting the ever reliable captain, he ensured one too many a times that City dint test VdS.
- Nani, has been, by a long distance the player of the season for united. Berbatov may be the one scoring the goals, but Nani is no doubt responsible for every crucial win which United have had so far. And how he has matured this season, holds good for the team.
- IMO, its all over for city, and I would like to be outright co**y and say ‘this title is ours to lose’
Van der Sar 8.0 Evra 8.0 Vidic 8.5 Smalling 9.0 O’Shea 8.0 Giggs 8.5 Scholes 8.0 Anderson 8.5 Fletcher 8.5 Nani 9.5 Rooney 9.5
Subs: Berbatov 8.5 Carrick 8.0