Writer: Tranmere Loyal
Date:Sunday April 17 2011
As the day dawned to the news that the attempt to melt the M1 by a dissafected United fan trying desperately to prevent City from getting Wembley had succeeded in creating minor delays, did we dare believe that it was to be our day?
The talk shows didn't give us a prayer with some geniuses predicting 0-3 and 0-4 as United were surreptitiously getting into the season-end overdrive with a magnificent treble still on the horizon, the Premier League title probably all ready in the bag. The FA Cup might be third out of the three in their aspirations, but you can bet your life that Ferguson did not want to see his season undermined by the noisy neighbours.
The Stadium plazas were awash with sky blue, whilst all the opposition could offer was another nasty banner celebrating the fact that at the recent match against Notts County, we had perhaps more empty seats than normal, plus a delivery from the Met of nearly 200 black-clad, no united colours thugs intent also on ruining the day for City and United fans alike. In the end they were not needed.
As the City team was announced on the jumbotrons, my immediate reaction was one of 'Manchester City 0', but as the strains of Blue Moon faded and the United line-up was given, hope restored itself as Ferguson announced a team to match our formation rather than impose his own game on proceedings...and only Chopper Scholes of the usual set of kickers in the engine room.
The final announcement of the United line-up saw City fans assemble into 'the Poznan' for the duration of the message and this was truly an awesome sight, perhaps eclipsing the hosts in Poland. The Club Level seating looked somewhat bewlidered and out of kilter as half the stadium rocked and bounced in sky-blue celebration...and a ball hadn't even been kicked!
Match under way and our fears looked as though they were starting to come to fruition. Chopper Scholes started to spray the ball around with gay abandon as United pressed from midfield in trade-mark fashion. City surrendered territory and were under the early cosh for perhaps 15 minutes. During that time the value of Rooney on the bench paid dividends to City as Berbatov, clean through after some slick United passing brought what turned out ot be a match-winning save from Joe Hart, City's hero with only 11 minutes on the clock.
A minute later, goal wide open, onside and only a yard out, Berbatov somehow contrived to scoop over, when a miss was unthinkable.
As Rooney shuffled uncomfortably on the bench, that was more or less that from United. City's defenders re-grouped under the astute leadership of Vincent Kompany and as City got into the game Mancini started to see the light. City were too deep and there was room for them to play further up the field and indeed out wide.
After 25 minutes Yaya was pushed further forward to support Balotelli and United's early good work started to fall undone. Scholes, the early maestro did not like his meetings with de Jong, trying to impress Nigel with a couple of fouls that might have earned him a yellow, but for now he got away with it.
Barry stepped up a gear, became safe and reliable, finding blue shirts with comparative ease and his tackling and ball-winning was superb.
Silva probed and prompted but didn't find the killer ball and Johnson struggled to make an impact out wide but helped Zabaleta keep the shackles on the attacking threat of Nani, supported by Evra down United's left.
Balotelli started to look lively, making some excellent undetected runs, so alien from him this season and it took a while for these to drop on to Silva's radar. The half ended with the job done, nothing untoward on the scoreboard, but nothing positive either.
The beginning of the second took us all, especially Fergie's boys by surprise. Mancini unleashed City and they went on to the front foot from the start. Pressing United into their own half the breakthrough mistakes started to happen and a poor clearance from Van der Saar set the tone to the extent that Carrick, caught out on the edge of box by Yaya Toure, could only look on as Toure eased Vidic out of the way and slotted the ball between Edwin's legs and into the bag of the net.
The goals ignited unprecented scenes at the national stadium. The Blue half went into raptures as once again the Poznan bounced across four out of the five levels, with once again only Club Level not joining in the fun.
Milton Keynes finest could only look on in disbelief as the scoreboard started to parade the legend. Even their despicable songs went unheard as the Arsenal library feel descended on the red half of the stadium.
On the field the game ebbed and flowed from end to end with City always in the ascendancy as United tried in vain to produce on of their legendary fight backs whilst having to keep good eyes on Silva, Balotelli but more importantly goalscorer Yaya Toure, who was in his rampaginf-best mood and scaring the likes of Vidic and Ferdinand to death.
Belief was started to emerge around the Blue Mooners and was draining rapidly at the opposite end.
United were still dangerous but even the introduction of Hernandez for Valencia after 65 minutes failed to ignite the touch paper.
The Blue touch paper was in full swing as the so-called collection of individuals put in an almost complete team performance despite being shorn of skipper Carlos Tevez.
For once the game clock was moving pretty quickly towards Fergie-time. Hart made a fantastic save from a deflected Nani free kick, more or less Nani's only major contribution of the day.
Six minutes later Chopper Scholes, this wonderful footballer who 'can't tackle' left his final trade mark on the match and headed for the dressing room with a red card under his nose. Seemingly annoyed that a challenge from Zabaleta against him went unpunished, he exacted revenge by 'doing' him with an equally trade mark despicable kick. It couldn't be called mistimed or unforunate it was simply an assault. Referee Mike Dean only calls it as he sees it . He patiently waited for the tempers to cool and sent Scholes to join Ferguson and Rooney, away from the action. I do not subscribe to the statement that this in an unfortunate area of Scholes game that he hasn't addressed. He's addressed it alright. He does it on purpose. It was seen when they played Arsenal. Two-nil up and coasting towards a semi-final with City, Scholes tied so hard to get sent off in his cameo-with-a-difference. Well he certainly succeeded at Wembley yesterday!
The monster effort put in by City was taking it's toll but with only 10-men United couldn't find any keys to any locks. City sent of SWP to peg Evra back in his own half. He has never been happy playing against SWP.
The final piece of Mancini magic as City prepared for life in a final was to send on Vieira, a hate figure for United fans, to strengthen the centre of the field.
It worked and today's damp squib had ' Manchester United' written on it.
As the scoreboard ticked down to zero up came exactly what we expected. Five minutes Fergie time. The 'lookie-lookie man' must have had a fit. I'll give Mike Dean the benefit on this because I rate him an excellent referee and his application of the laws of the game is second to none.
No Rooney to get a goal in stoppage time, Owen still sitting on the bench and everyone else off the pace meant for once that City saw the game out to send half the stadium into ecstasy whilst the other half must have had a giant vacuum cleaner behind it as it finished emptying in what must be record evacuation time. The Safety Managers will be delighted with that.
After the final whistle the beleagured reds couldn't accept City's joy and in Balotelli's pledge to the cause as he held his City badge high in front of United fans close to the tunnel. Anderson and Ferdinand started a bit of pushing, having clearly forgotten that plant pot of theirs who pumped his hands, thighs and kissed his badge in front of Liverpool supporters totally intent on setting off something ugly on the terraces. Mario gave Rio a little wink and he exploded. Time to hang up your boots Rio.
The team however decided it would be more fun to go to the City end and join in the Poznan and we were left with the sight of the team in a line, backs to the crowd dancing the Poznan.
I cannot give individual plaudits for this match. It was the day the individuals finally collected themselves. Thry played for the team, played for the Club, played for the City, played for the supporters.
Our first visit to the new stadium was fantastic. The stadium undersells United because of the red seats, wheras our section looked awesome bathed in blue and white. We now look forward to our second visit and the same outcome. We never felt more like singing the blues..... But on my way home once the phone-ins had finished I played my Richard Thompson CD and in particular the song...You can't hide from the turning of the tide. Ladies and Gentlemen, the sea is BLUE!
Date:Sunday April 17 2011
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