Verdict: Manchester City 0 Manchester United 0
City and United cancelled each other out to the extent that even Fergie time passed without incident. Despite the hype claiming the huge significance of this derby, the reality is different at this relatively early stage of the season. In the overall league campaign, a draw was acceptable to both sides.
No doubt it was a poor spectacle for the many neutrals who tuned in, and the manager has had plenty of criticism for his tactics. Mancini will be unmoved, the result was satisfactory. In this regard Roberto is very much the Italian manager.
“It’s not important for me if I’m criticised.
“It’s a good point for me. I think we are improving from last year. I prefer one point tonight than no points like last season when we scored a few goals.”
Similar games with identical results were played out last season at home to Liverpool and away to Arsenal. Ferguson claimed his were the side looking to win, yet when bringing on Hernandez, he elected to take off Berbatov rather than a midfielder. A switch to 4-4-2 would have opened up the game and risked conceding the midfield to City’s trio. A gamble Fergie wasn’t prepared to take.
City had lined up as expected with Milner replacing Balotelli, rather than the more dangerous Johnson. The former Villa winger sticks better to his defensive duties and helps keep the team shape.
The result put an extra onus on Silva to provide the spark capable of unlocking United’s defence and setting Tevez free. It didn’t happen as the Spaniard looked a little jaded following the game against West Brom.
The same applied to Yaya and Barry in a match where we needed everyone to be at their sharpest. Ferguson had switched from 4-4-2 to bring in Carrick as an extra midfielder, and match our formation.
It was noticeable in the opening minutes how United were sitting back and allowing us to knock the ball around at will. As an attempt to take the sting out of the game it proved unneccessary.
Eventually they started to press higher up the pitch and the game became evenly balanced with neither side able to make a clear opening. Neither goalkeeper was seriously tested all night, a Tevez free-kick being the only attempt to require a full-stretch dive.
The concern for City was a lack of sharpness in midfield following the West Brom game. A sense of sluggishness is heightened without Johnson or Balotelli, as there is a real lack of pace and urgency to get forward and support Tevez.
Consequently United, with Park often making a fourth central player, were able to move the ball around more sharply. We weren’t able to use our physical strength to push them back to the extent we had Chelsea. It made for an uncomfortable night, particularly in the second half.
Added to this was United’s trademark willingness to commit players forward in the latter stages to try and force a dramatic winner. They may well have succeeded had it not been for the excellent form of our defensive players.
Kompany, Kolo and Zabaleta all put in teriffic performances to keep United from creating chances within our penalty area. In addition, De Jong’s closing down of opponents prevented any from outside the area. Scholes was sitting deep and although he completed more passes than anyone, none of them created any significant danger.
With the game so tight set-pieces were going to crucial. Therefore it was disappointing to see our delivery often let us down, notably a David Silva free-kick on the stroke of half-time.
Mancini’s attempts to increase our attacking threat were measured. Johnson for Milner and Kolarov for Boateng gave us two players who like to take the game to the opposition. However United were equally resolute at the back and never over-committed in the manner that allowed Tevez to score against Chelsea.
Yaya went on one of his runs at the end and was only just stopped on the edge of the penalty area. Mancini railed in frustration, revealing his desire to snatch a winner was still intact.
City’s primary aim this season is Champions League qualification. With Tottenham drawing at home to Sunderland and Liverpool drawing at Wigan, our point ensures neither side gained ground. That makes for a satisfactory result from this round of matches.
Mancini and his side now move on to Saturday. A win against Birmingham will give us 7 points from a possible 9 this week. That return would keep us on track for a top four finish in May, long after this derby is forgotten.