Mark Hughes has been on then other end of Manchester derbies for much of his career in football. But today, Hughes experienced the agony of defeat in the most emotional way at Old Trafford.
Darren Fletcher was outstanding today and Michael Owen’s winner was well deserved and well taken even if City had legitimate shouts about the amount of stoppage time given.
Credit to Sir Alex Ferguson for his faith in fellow Scot, Fletcher. The same can be said for Mark Hughes faith in fellow Welshman Craig Bellamy.
The final verdict on this match was the failure of City’s expensive central defense duo of Kolo Toure and Jolean Lescott to make a positive impression. The City back four looked disjointed and disorganized throughout the entire second half, conceding three well earned goals to United and being bailed out on several others by the heroic Shay Given.
The additional stoppage time was indeed frivolous, but City’s inability to control possession in stoppage time and Hughes bizarre tactical switch to place the previously effective Stephen Ireland out wide early in the second half created lots of space in the middle of the pitch for United’s midfield.
United without Paul Scholes, perhaps the most technically gifted English footballer of the past decade, provided City with a fighting chance at the points today. But the Blues didn’t take advantage of the depleted United side today, losing a classic 4-3.
Certainly, a healthy Vincent Kompany would have helped City at the back today, as would a healthy Robinho in maintaining possession. But City’s first half brilliance gave way to second half desperation, and with the exception of Bellamy, Shay Given and perhaps Carlos Tevez, every City player must wonder why they could not play better, more free flowing and possession oriented football in the second half.
While the official is certain to gain the ire of most City supporters, as well he should for the extended stoppage time, it was City’s defense that put itself in the position to be denied a draw this afternoon.
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