April 9, 2013 by backofthenetjl
In the 165th meeting between the two sides, 1st met 2nd at Old Trafford as Manchester United and Manchester City locked horns. Before the game, Manchester United had a very healthy 15 point lead at the top and had been in scintillating form, while the blue half of Manchester had endured a mixed season, with many of their prize assets failing to hit the heights of the previous season.
It was an intense and closely fought fixture as expected and with the talent which both sides had in their locker, it was difficult to separate them. But in the end it was Manchester City who restored pride with a 2-1 win over the Reds. James Milner opened the scoring just after half-time with a deflected strike, but that strike was cancelled out shortly after as Phil Jones’ header found the net with help from City’s Vincent Kompany. Then Sergio Aguero had the last say, scoring a wonderful solo goal in the 78th minute to give City a much-needed boost before their Fa Cup Semi-final with Chelsea.
Here are my thoughts on the game:
It was an interesting tactical battle between the two sides, in this was largely down to the way in which Sir Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini set up their teams. Ferguson opted to deploy Wayne Rooney slightly behind Robin van Persie and in paired Carrick and Giggs in midfield; a decision which didn’t prove to be too fruitful. It’s easy to see that Carrick is an exceptional passer of the ball, but in terms of protecting the defence, he isn’t the best, so it’s vital you play someone alongside him who is prepared to stick to his defensive duties and protect that defence, and though Giggs is a fantastic player who has had a tremendous career, he is not that sort of player, so it may of been a better move to play Phil Jones in midfield. There were times in the game, where United were over-ran in midfield and that was mainly down to Giggs persistence to get involved with United’s attacking play. Danny Welbeck and Ashley young were chosen to occupy the flanks, with Young wanting to cut inside quite frequently and Welbeck working hard up and down that right wing as he does so well.
As for City, Roberto Mancini took a slightly cautious approach to the game and fielded a side which appeared to line-up in a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1 formation, with Tevez being the man furthest forward in attack. The Argentine has a tendency to come deep for the ball and drag defenders out of position, leaving space for the intricate football to be played involving Silva and Nasri. Tevez was successful in doing so in the game and I thought he lead the line very well. James Milner had an exceptional game in the last meeting at Old Trafford and his work rate and determination was the primary reason he was chosen, given the attacking intent of United left-back Patrice Evra. Milner was able to be effective in both attacking and defensive areas, often working well with Pablo Zabaleta whether that was with or without the ball. Yaya Toure was almost a deep-lying playmaker and Gareth Barry played in the anchor man role; a role which would consist of breaking up play and moving the ball onto the more skilful players in attack.
Not a game full of chances:
Both sides are very well organised at the back, so it was no surprise that neither Goal-keeper was forced into any difficult saves. The Host’s managed 5 shots on target, while City registered 3 shots in target; this pretty much tells you the story of the game that the vast majority of the play was in the middle of the park and you could say that the two teams cancelled each-other out the majority of the time. In that first half, City were very much in full-control of the game in midfield and United struggling to get going. Gareth Barry and Yaya Toure were shifting the ball about quite confidently and the same could be said for United’s Michael Carrick, but the Reds seemed to be more ambitious in their passing, on the other hand City appeared to be more content with playing the simple passes. The second-half saw a difference, but still few chances were being created and you could say that this was down to the wrong decisions being made when on the ball; by that I mean that players chose the wrong pass, attempted a shot when a better option would of been a pass or vice-versa. In a game with few clear-cut chances, it was paramount then when you did get the chance, you made it count and City were a tad more clinical in attacking areas and United didn’t make the most of the counter-attacks they had.
Interesting midfield battle:
It has to be said that midfield was the area where the game is won in most games and it seemed the case in this fixture. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry against Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick was an interesting battle and with David Silva and Wayne Rooney dropping back in for their respective sides, there were plenty of bodies in there, but not so much space. Gareth Barry and Michael Carrick were both very successful with the passes that they made, with Barry completing 91% of his attempted passes and Carrick had a pass accuracy of 90%. City had more players dropping deep and collecting the ball, as that’s how they play and that was one of the main factors in City winning that midfield battle on most occasions. Maybe if United had Scholes, Cleverley or even Jones in midfield alongside Carrick, it could have been a different story and United would have possibly matched City’s dominance in midfield.
Analysis of Milner’s goal to make it 1-0:
In the second half, City took the lead, courtesy of a deflected strike from midfielder James Milner. Ryan Giggs attempted an audacious back-heel in the wrong area and was robbed by Gareth Barry.
Here you can see Barry racing towards goal and already Tevez and Silva are arriving in good attacking positions. Ferdinand appears to be unaware of where Silva is and Carrick is attempting to get back in a good defensive position. There seems to be enough United players back, but soon more City bodies arrive and with Barry having a clear route to goal, he has an opportunity for a cross or a cut-back.
In this image, you can see that Rafael is struggling to get back and prevent Nasri from reaching the ball first. Carrick has been drawn to the ball and Evra has been sucked in, leaving Milner acres of space outside the box.
Now in this image, Nasri has turned away from Carrick, who is now moving towards the ball, but Milner has found too much space and is the more likely of the two to get the ball. It’s evident to see that Tevez is in an off-side position, but it’s debatable whether he is actually interfering with play. Carrick and Jones both throw themselves at the ball and it takes a deflection off the latter, leaving De Gea with no chance. It has to be said that it was an avoidable goal.
Analysis of Kompany’s own goal to make it 1-1:
It all begins with Carrick pinching the ball away from Nasri, who fails to bring the ball close to his feet and then Carrick feeds the ball to Welbeck, who helps it on to Rafael and now the ball has been lost by Nasri, Clichy has no protection, so Rafael spots and opportunity and darts down the right.
We can see from this image, that Joe Hart’s positioning is rather strange, it looks as if he thinks van Persie is going to strike the free-kick to his near post and judging by his run up, it does look that way. Ferdinand is clearly unmarked in the area; Jones however is being marked tightly by Kompany.
As van Persie delivers the free-kick in, Kompany is caught in two minds; as Ferdinand is unmarked. Hart dives to try and push the ball away and as he misses it, it puts Kompany off making the header.
Analysis of Aguero’s goal to make it 2-1:
We can see here that Yaya Toure has collected the ball in mid-way into United’s half and is already looking to play the ball forward. Silva is on the verge of dropping deeper to take the ball of Toure. He then goes on to collect the ball and play it wide to Clichy.
Eventually the ball is back with Toure, and we can see that Aguero has moved in-field, dragging Rafael out position in the process. However, on the far side, Clichy is making a darting run and that is pulling Rafael back into his position, thus leaving space for Aguero to exploit.
Toure plays in Aguero and Welbeck can’t get closer enough to him, as Aguero turns so sharply. Clichy has stormed down the left and Rafael cannot go and close Aguero down as that will leave Clichy free, the same can be said for Ferdinand. So Aguero has a chance to run at the United defence.
Aguero superbly skips past 3 United players and Danny Welbeck gets the wrong side of the Argentine, meaning he simply cannot tackle him or else he brings him down. The City striker continues his run and puts into the back of the net.
It was a very close game and very enjoyable to watch. Both sides had their moments, but City maybe just edged it. Gareth Barry was superb, Phil Jones was excellent and what a phenomenal goal from Sergio Aguero. The title race still seems to be over, but that result and performance proves that City are still very much a big force when they get going.