This was the most hyped Manchester derby in years and it did not fail to disappoint with plenty of talking points. A 4-3 final score in Manchester United’s favour was a dramatic shock at the end of a tense battle.
Today was a story of two defences. Ben Foster and Rio Ferdinand were far from their best and all three goals were carelessly conceded by the Red Devils. The first was an embarrassing decision made by Foster to try to take the ball past Carlos Tevez. He failed to do this and allowed Tevez to calmly pass the ball to Gareth Barry who slotted the ball comfortably away. For the second and third goals Rio Ferdinand has to take the blame. He firstly allowed Craig Bellamy too much time on the ball and failed to close him down as Bellamy swept a glorious right footed goal into the top corner. The second came in the final minute of normal play when Ferdinand – normally so reliable on the ball – decided to chip the ball out to John O’Shea on the wing only to fail and give it straight to Martin Petrov who played the ball to Bellamy. He beat Ferdinand for pace and coolly passed the ball beyond Foster.
It was a poor defensive display by Manchester United and would not have been a performance which encouraged the manager or fans. The main questions raised from today are, is Ben Foster ever going to be ready to replace Edwin van der Sar as the United No 1 and was Rio Ferdinand rushed back to fitness for this match?
United’s defence was rarely troubled and all three goals conceded were the only shots on target. But Manchester City came from behind on every occasion which is a very rare occurrence against any Manchester United defence. It is something that will have frustrated Sir Alex Ferguson and he will want that addressed before the next Premier League match against Stoke at the Britannia stadium.
Ben Foster has been on trial since the beginning of the season when Sir Alex announced that he would finally be given his chance as the No 1 keeper at United whilst van der Sar was injured. Foster is certainly having a rollercoaster of a ride. Against Spurs last weekend and again versus Besiktas on Tuesday he made some impressive saves. Unfortunately for Foster and every other goalkeeper in the world, one error is remembered above hundreds of world-class stops. He will be glad that Fabio Capello decided to watch the Chelsea vs. Tottenham match rather than this derby because there was nothing that Foster will want to memorise from this game.
At the other end of the pitch Shay Given had plenty to do and made two impressive saves from Dimitar Berbatov’s headers in the final half hour. But it was the £40m pairing of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott that will be walking away hanging their heads in shame. Twice they were beaten to the ball by Darren Fletcher who is not renowned for scoring goals for the team in red, let alone two in one game.
The winning goal was scored in controversial circumstances with four minutes of stoppage time being added on to the end – it was not until the sixth minute of added time that Michael Owen found the back of the net. It was poor defending again that saw United walk away with the three points. A high ball was played into the City area which was cleared straight to Ryan Giggs, who had an outstanding game, rifled a long pass along the ground to an unmarked Owen who had the composure to bring the ball under control and place it in the right hand corner beyond Given’s outstretched arm.
The red side of Manchester will be content in knowing that the blue side have quite a way to go before surpassing anything they have done in recent years. City showed their resilience in coming back on three occasions, but they were not able to hold out until the final whistle. Hughes has plenty to take away from the match but the defence has now conceded six goals against two of the best sides in England which will not please him. City are capable of achieving a high league position this season, but fourth may be outside of their capabilities.
Both Hughes and Ferguson will not be happy that their teams shipped goals too easily, but it is the latter that will be getting a peaceful night’s sleep.