Date: 1st May 2012 at 12:06pm
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Manchester looked almost tropical as yesterday got under way, so was this to be the signal for the day`s events? As the match approached there was a hint of rain in the air. Would this put the dampener of the evening’s events. Well for one team it would.

Mancini fielded what his become his most feared team, which I call the “ground attack”. Ferguson paraded a quite ridiculous line-up which was either disrespectful towards City or an acceptance of the fact that the Stretford Diving Club needed a rest (they were all on the bench..Young, Valencia, Hernandez and Berbatov) or simply that he does not know how to combat the impressive set up that Mancini has at his disposal.

Quite clearly in his thinking was to prevent Silva and Toure from dictating the game and hoping that Rooney got one on the break. But to send out Dad’s Army plus Park against Silva, Toure and Barry was tactical suicide for the red-nosed knight.

And it showed from the off. The visitors were devoid of the pace levels needed to perform at this level and the frustration tactics never really worked as City commanded the ball, were reluctant to surrender it and United looked like a mid-table team coming for a draw. Which in fact, if they did not have Ferguson as their manager is exactly what they are.

The new 9-0-1 formation left Rooney on his own upfield and everyone else camped on the edge of their own box or at least in their own half.

It is true that for the majority of the first half they kept City away from their goal but chances did fall to Aguero and Tevez which could have broken the deadlock.

Having rested Howard Webb it was down to Andre Marriner to take over the mantle of “equaliser” for the night and he somehow saw fit to caution Kaptain Kompany for nothing, and it really was nothing. He did likewise with Yaya, but Rooney, leading with his customary elbow against Joe Hart and that clown Nani all but assaulting Zabaleta were deemed to be fair and acceptable.

Well Mr Marriner, you weren’t going to get rid of Kompany that easily and when he led Smalling a dance as Silva produced a peach of a corner, VK produced a header of stunning ferocity that billowed the netting in the South Stand sending the Stadium mental seconds before the break?well except for those in the visiting blocks.

In the second half Ferguson did not seem to want to release his “big players” who adorned the bench, although he did get Welbeck out there to try to ruffle some feathers, which was quite apt because the rampant Yaya Toure was knocking over Giggs, Scholes and Park as if they were roly-poly policemen in a budgies cage. Father Time must be calling upon these experienced stalwarts who have what it takes to be champions.

City kept plugging away and Nasri, Yaya and Clichy all went close in a one-way traffic event where United did not register a shot on target. When has that ever happened? From the minute Ferguson posted his teamsheet there was only going to be one winner of this match and as in the semi-final last season only one goal would be needed to see the opposition off. As in the semi-final last year – what a goal it was.

There was much nailbiting going on as five-minute Fergie Time approached six minutes, but City hadn’t allowed United a sniff of the goalmouth all night and were not going to give it up now.

Young had been brought on to a chorus of “He’s going to dive in a minute” and true to form as soon as any City player went near him he went to grass like a moo-cow chewing its cud and promptly the boos resonated around the stadium. It was all too little too late for an out of sorts United team who must by now have clearly received and accepted the signal that it is all-change in Manchester and not in their direction.

City to a man were simply outstanding. The back line was as strong as I have seen it. VK and Lescott were immense, Clichy simply superb and Zaba must have left Richards wondering if he will start another match this season. Argentinians are a different breed. They are the equivalent of Australians in Rugby League. They have energy, know-how, guile and a desire to win and nowhere has this been better exemplified than in the exploits of Zaba, Aguero and the returning Tevez who worked between the lines superbly tonight even though there wasn’t much room in which to ply his trade.

Nasri had for me his best game for City, but once again we have to pay tribute to Gareth Barry, forever the unsung hero who couldn’t write a headline with his own pen. He gave Scholes and Giggs nothing and closed Park’s space down more or less every time. His passing, tackling and perception made him a fearsome opponent and he even survived an assassination attempt by the waster formerly known as Carrick who scythed him down when he finally caught him in the second half. Nothing new there then.

A perceived foul by de Jong on Diver Welbeck was found to warrant more paperwork for Andre Marriner and caused an explosion at the benches with Ferguson going nuts at Mancini – a positive sign that he is losing it. You won’t get Mancini to back down like some of the lesser lights or brown nosers in the Premier League and Ferguson looked as if he was doing the birdie song (or budgie song dance) as he flapped around in his technical area. Some might say this was the most significant action of the night for anyone in a red shirt, but for City it demonstrates the kind of passion that has been rising along with the Blue Moon for the last couple of years. A passion that was missing for the entirety of this match from the opposition.

Was it Gary Owen who said “The Blue tide is coming in?and you can’t stop the tide”?

City are not there yet. There are two matches and six points to play for including a tricky event at St James’ Park to negotiate on Sunday. But how ironic is that. Back in 1968 although George Best scored in the first minute, Colin Bell, Francis Lee and big George Heslop helped City destroy United at Old Trafford. Not long after we all know what happened at St James’ Park. So the omens could be with City at last.

Both managers believe the advantage is with the other team as Fergie has to play against two “dead-rubber” teams, one of which is festooned with his cast-offs who have already gone on holiday, whereas City have to play a champions league-chasing club plus one managed by their former manager who is looking to avoid relegation.

But we all know we will not count our budgies.

The match ended last night with Blue Moon bouncing around the stadium with a certain Mr Gallagher joining in whilst probably trying to teach Diego Armando Maradona the words.

Then as “Wonderwall” screamed from the PA system, there was a feeling of well-being and?.Maybe. Or in the words of City’s most famous cheerleader?..Definitely?.Maybe.


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