Manchester United were undeniably the better side but they failed to take advantage of the majority of possession that they enjoyed. While Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were confident and assured in their passing, there was no end product to their sharp, incisive build ups. Part of this was due to Roberto Mancini’s defensive tactic whereby 10-men seemed to be behind the ball at all times, making it difficult for the Red Devils to muster a shot on goal. The other part was due to United’s lack of an in-form striker. Dimitar Berbatov has not scored since his impressive hat-trick against Liverpool in September, and although he did well to link the United attack last night, he found himself coming deep to collect the ball, meaning that there were very few options in the penalty area. What United require to enhance their title challenge is an in-form Wayne Rooney to help them consolidate victories in matches from which they should be taking three points.
Although Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes were instrumental in the United midfield on Wednesday night both defensively and in attack, the lack of creativity in the final third of the pitch became increasingly apparent as the Red Devils attempted to break down the resolute City defensive line. United appear to lack an attack-minded midfielder who can play just off the strikers and create chances with incisive, defence-splitting passes. For too long United were restricted to crosses from the wing which were easily cleared by the City centre-backs. Ferguson’s men needed to attack through the middle in order to put the City defence under more pressure.
Manchester City on the other hand were too cautious in their approach to the match and as a result were too defensive in a home game where they would be expected to take the game to their fiercest rivals. When Mancini’s men did attack, they were too dependent on Carlos Tevez, who was, understandably, vigorously closed down every time he received the ball. The Argentinian was still showing signs of his thigh injury and as a result he was generally subdued throughout the match. James Milner and David Silva failed to cause too many problems for the United full-backs while Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic were able to shut down Tevez before he could get a shot on goal. Despite this, there was an evident stability in the City defence which could prove to be crucial if they are to establish consistency in the league.
In the end, the tension prevented the game from being an open affair, but the result keeps both sides in sight of Chelsea at the top of the table. Perhaps the return fixture at Old Trafford in February will have more significance in terms of the title race and reveal who the true footballing force in Manchester is.