We have plenty to talk about after yesterday’s Manchester Derby between Manchester City and Manchester United at The Etihad stadium. There is Smalling’s red card, Hart getting right in the face of official, the referees overall performance, penalty appeals, more injuries in defence for United and United’s resilient performance with 10 men and a very makeshift defence.
The game started at a steady pace with both teams feeling each other out after all neither could really afford to lose the game in the opening period. The recent derby games Manchester City have blown United away before the game has even got going. I feel United were the better team in the first twenty minutes of this game without really creating anything. The one real chance United created in this period fell to Januzaj who volleyed tamely wide after Van Persie headed it down to him. By this time I feel the referee had already lost control of this game with him failing to book Clichy for a blatant foul on Januzaj. City then created a few chances that were all well saved by De Gea. I feel one of the reasons City got these chances were because Valencia and Shaw were getting too far forwards at times and being caught of position.
Daley Blind was then booked for a nothing challenge on Yaya Toure on the edge of the area, this was a foul but was never a yellow card. Several minutes later there were two late challenges by city players, firstly by Aguero on Rooney as he played the ball out to Di Maria then Zabaleta was late on Di Maria. At least one of these challenges should have received bookings but neither did. As Zabaleta was later booked in the 2nd half and therefore would have been sent off. United did get a free kick for the Zabaleta challenge, which would lead to Smalling getting his first booking.
Smalling’s first booking came when he stopped Joe Hart trying to clear the ball quickly, now Hart was clever by kicking the ball into Smalling, knowing that Smalling would get a booking for obstructing him. As Smalling was being booked by the referee, Hart stormed out towards the referee and squared up to the referee, now he should have been at least booked for this. I can’t understand why Hart would do this, he had got what he wanted, Smalling had been booked and was now on a tightrope that he would fall off very soon. Seven minutes later Smalling received his 2nd yellow and saw red for a reckless challenge on Milner. This was a silly challenge at the best of times. Smalling should have stayed on his feet and just put pressure on Milner. Now I don’t think he needs anyway to tell him he’s been a silly boy. The look on his face as soon he got up shows me he knows he’s made a mistake in the heat of a Derby game.
So United started the 2nd half with Carrick coming on to fill in at centre back and Januzaj was sacrificed. Only for things to get worse 10 minutes into the half, with Rojo going off with what looked like he could have dislocated his shoulder. So on came on Paddy McNair to partner Carrick at centre back. This must be about the 15th different centre back pairing United have had to use due to injuries and suspension. I’m starting to think they will never be able to get the same back four on the pitch for two games running never a run of 10 or 15 games. Shortly after City took advantage of United’s back shift back line, taking the lead through Aguero, this goal had been coming ever since the sending off with city feeling they should have had two penalties towards the end of the 1st half. They probably should have had one for Fellaini’s challenge on Aguero but I feel Rojo won the on the second one and probably didn’t even see Toure he just had eyes for the ball.
After City took the lead I was sat there thinking oh no this is going to 3 or 4-0 especially with 2 midfielders and a young kid making only his 3rd senior appearance in defence, not to mention the fact we were down to 10. Though City started to just sit back and they were panicking when we attacked them, if you had come in to watch the game from about the 70th minute and were told one team was down to 10 men, I think you would be right in assuming that it was City. Sadly United couldn’t find the required equaliser and lost the game 1-0.
Even though United lost this game, I definitely believe there is improvement there under Van Gaal. I also feel we have got that fight and desire for the shirt back that was also there under Fergie but was never there under David Moyes. This is the first time for a long a time that I’ve felt after losing a big game that we were actually in the game and not just blown away by the opponents. I really do feel that there is small improvements under Van Gaal every week. We just need to get a bit of luck with defenders and hope we can get a combination 4 playing regular basis from now on.