Manchester Derby: Instant Reaction
It took something special from Sergio Aguero, but City fully deserved all three points in the Manchester derby.
While United may still be 12 points clear at the top of the table, City’s passing and slick movement was superior to a United squad which was too often let down by the final ball.
The tactics were on display for all to see early with the home side looking to sit deep and hit on the break. The visitors meanwhile pressed forward and looked for David Silva (who was drifting in-between the lines) to slash open the United rearguard.
From the tactical standpoint, both sides seemed to have the right idea.
First, Danny Welbeck set off on a dangerous counter only to be dispossessed by Gael Clichy when Wayne Rooney was sprinting into space.
At the other end, Silva looked dangerous with the ball at his feet while Carlos Tevez’s movement combined with the clever runs of James Milner and Samir Narsi into the box kept United’s defense on edge.
The latter should have done better to test David De Gea with a snapshot volley when he suddenly found the ball at his feet just 15 yards form goal.
It was ironic then that the opening goal for City came from a United-esque counter-attack after Ryan Giggs inexplicably gave the ball away to Gareth Barry with an unwarranted back-heel in midfield.
Barry quickly took the space and found Nasri who laid off for Milner to finish with a rasping drive from the top of the box to give City a 51st minute lead.
United’s counter-attacks were often let down by a lack of quality in the service. The final ball into the box negating the quick breaks and exceptional wide play which has become a trademark of Sir Alex’s side.
Therefore, it was no surprise that the Red Devils' equalizer came from the one good ball that was whipped in all evening.
Robin Van Persie’s wicked delivery from a set piece simply required a touch. Phil Jones obliged, doing just enough to redirect the ball off the unfortunate Vincent Kompany to get United back on level terms just before the hour mark.
Aguero would make his entrance in the 71st and put his stamp on the match just seven minutes later.
Yaya Toure slid the ball into Aguero whose diagonal run took him into a pocket of space at the top of the box. The Argentine took the pass in stride, glided by three defenders and finished emphatically from a tight angle.
It was a strike worthy of winning such a highly charged and well played derby. A fair result as well based on the balance of play. City’s passing, movement and final ball was just that much better than United’s meaning that while the Reds may rule the Prem, the Blues rule Manchester.
I would like to have seen Sir Alex make his substitutions a little bit earlier. While two of the three substitutions were made due to mitigating circumstances (the 78th minute goal and Ashley Young’s injury), I still think the Shinji Kagawa for Young change should have occurred around the 70th minute mark.
Kagawa would have offered something different. A bit more zest and the ability to connect through the middle rather than Young who is either going to just attack down the wing or look to cut inside. The Japanese international is more adept at making those little slicing runs in and around the top of the box that would have added another dimension to United’s attack.
For City, I have the same question as everyone else. Where was this type of fluid movement and passing against the likes of Sunderland, QPR, and Southampton? Too often this season, City have looked disjointed, individualistic and out of ideas. Those in Blue can only wonder what the run-in to the end of the season might have looked like had the reigning champions been able to play consistently at the level on display tonight.