Manchester City FC Keep Pressure On In Title Race


At last Manchester City FC get a win, whilst Manchester United see red, the referee suffers from temporary blindness and Sergio Aguero has a mini-meltdown. Welcome to what was the 168th Manchester derby…

This was a match that both teams desperately needed to win. With City on a run of three matches without a win, and starting to look a little lost, and United suffering their worst start to a season for decades, the stakes were high. But then again in a derby match, could it ever be anything else?

Jul 23, 2014; Kansas City, KS, USA; Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini before the game against the Sporting KC at Sporting Park. Manchester City won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Manchester City FC manager Manuel Pellegrini rang the changes from the team that started the Capital One Cup match against Newcastle in midweek, making seven changes and bringing in Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Fernando, Jesus Navas, Joe Hart and Gael Clichy as a last minute replacement for Aleksander Kolarov who had to miss the game after getting injured in the warm-up. Yaya Toure also started the game having managed to shake off the groin problem that ended his contribution on Wednesday evening.

City had been roundly criticised in the build up to the match for losing their way and “lacking confidence” according to Pellegrini, whilst United were coming into the game, fresh from a spirited display against league leaders Chelsea, so a somewhat lacklustre opening from the Sky-Blues was not overly encouraging.

Aug 4, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata (center) celebrates his goal with defender Chris Smalling (12) and Ander Herrera (21) in the second half of a game against Liverpool at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

United seemed happy to sit back and let City take the initiative, something that seems to be the way that many teams are looking to play at the Etihad these days. For all the possession and wonderful football that City create in a match, creating and then finishing chances has been a major problem so to see City create three clear chances in the first half, only to be denied by a world class display of goalkeeping from David de Gea, didn’t do anything to settle the nerves.

But this was a derby and these matches have a tendency to do strange things to certain player’s minds. Step forward Chris Smalling to receive not the Man of the Match award, but the Muppet of the Match award. Having already been cautioned only seven minutes previously the United centre-back blocks James Milner and gets his second caution and a subsequent red to leave the visitors with only 10 men on the pitch.

Time for City to take the game by the scruff of the neck then and make the most of the opportunity to put the game to bed and show the other side of Manchester which team is still in charge.

Or not…

Look, playing against 10 men can be difficult. For a defensive set up in the first place, going down to 10 just makes it even more defensive, but this is a United team that within a few minutes of losing Smalling, would also be without Marcos Rojo who dislocated his shoulder and had to be stretchered off. When City with Jovetic, Navas and Sergio Aguero can’t capitalise on a back four of Shaw, Carrick, McNair and Raphael, something’s not quite right, and that’s becoming a major worry.

That said, the fact that City should have had three penalties doesn’t help and Mike Riley and Howard Webb sitting in their little studio in Salford need to get a grip on the raft of shockingly poor refereeing decisions this season. Yes the game is faster, but never before have officials been able to communicate as a unit as they do know. If four people can’t see a clear cut penalty, then we have big problems.

Penalties aside, City should have done better against a shockingly poor, but highly resistant United back four, especially when you consider Smalling went on 39 minutes, but United were able to hold out for another 23 minutes before the little wizard Aguero showed his class and smashed the ball into the top of the United net for 1-0.

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Right, one goal up, United reeling with a defence that most Sunday league teams would look at optimistically, so now’s the time to go for the jugular and finish this off properly.

Again De Gea denied Stevan Jovetic and the post thwarted Jesus Navas after an inspired run through defenders to the goal line, but no. Instead Pellegrini decides to pull off the man that has kept City ticking this season in all the matches he’s played, little Aguero.

Meltdown… Rattle, toys and teddy out of the pram, but the little man was right. Why on earth would you pull off Aguero having just scored, increased the tempo to that not seen in the last three games and with the opposition down to 10 men?

So instead of keeping United on the back-foot, it allowed them to move forward and start to pressure the City goal. Van Persie should have done better, Angel di Maria should have buried his chance, but thankfully Joe Hart wasn’t going to let David de Gea escape with all the plaudits, and the big man did what needed to be done to keep the score at 1-0 and ensure a vital three points for the men in sky blue.

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