Ped's Derby Verdict - United 1-2 Manchester City
Avid readers may well have noticed the missing Ped Report following the Manchester-Stretford Derby over the weekend. This is due to the Pedmachine being found missing in the frozen wastes of ..no, not Ukraine but Northern France, stuck for four hours on the snowbound A16 between Calais and Boulogne.
Over the years it has paid me handsomely to be away from my native City when the Blues take on their old foes from Sold Trafford and once again this weekend, which started in De Gaulle's birth town of Lille was no exception.
Ahead of the match, I have to say, I enjoyed the filings of Skoorb who wrote the kind of piece that expressed the pre-match feelings of more than a handful of City fans. He certainly captured the moment. After all, wasn't everything set up for the ghastly moaning Maureen to burst Pep's bubble? Well not with that team!
When I saw the Stretford line-up, I suppose I was caught up in the Fergie years. It was a team full of pace and power, which should have played with a "box" in front of De Gea, with Diver Young and the ageing Valencia bombing forward out wide, playing up to Lukaku with the three youngsters behind collecting second balls. Many thought they would "go for it" as they had at Arsenal recently. But no, it didn't work out like that at all. They looked impotent. They looked as if they had been given a totally different footballing message by Maureen. They looked a long way short of what Master Guardiola has masterminded at the Etihad.
For his part, Guardiola put together his best available side, albeit probably with Delph, Silva and of course, Kompany in patched-up form. But it was more than enough to take this derby in their stride and boss the Stretfords easily. The 2-1 victory flattered United as City piled up their usual chances, winning with two of the most unlikely goals you would expect City to score.
Most City fans, on Derby Day have this ache in their stomach. For some reason we don't get the reminiscence of punishing the Stretfords 1-6 on their own patch, we get those of last minute, injury time goals scored against us that often deprived the Blues of a well-earned draw at times when the on-field roles were reversed. Now though, they seem to almost expect to win, home or away against Stretford's finest.
Maybe it's because even when they line-up like a team to fear, it is they themselves who play with fear, defending for their lives and playing long balls out of defence almost like a third-world football team. Add in to that a midfield that has a thuggish feel to it where the key exponents are either not too much bothered about the ball or are happy to throw themselves to the ground when fairly tackled.
No matter Herrera did precisely that towards the end of the match when everything his team had tried had failed, but what exactly happened in the early part of the match when a gang-wrestle from Matic and Herrera on Otamendi should easily have resulted in a penalty for City. It was waved on and the Blues got on with it.
Herrera was lucky again when a weaving run by de Jesus saw the City player hit the deck. Herrera waved his "we are Man United" arms in innocence, but as they say, "I have seen them given".
United couldn't handle City. They may have so-called hard men in midfield but they have nobody with the talent of Fernandinho, who was once again brilliant.
Ahead of the break Sane brought another excellent save out of, hopefully Real Madrid-bound De Gea and the fun and games really ignited with the resulting corner. The Blues do not regularly get goals from set pieces, although we have seen some improvement in that direction this season. For their part, United loaded their box with the big guys, double-decker style and this proved to be their undoing. De Bruyne sent in the corner, Otamendi put the covering clown Lukaku under pressure and the combination set up Silva conveniently positioned before De Gea and played onside by the Arc of the Diver, previously known as Young, prodded the ball home. No Mr Smalling, if the ball is played by your own player and there is one of yours playing everyone onside, do not expect help from the Assistant Referee.
Even more ahead of the break, United, too, got lucky when, yes, you guessed it, in time added on. First, Martial registered the Stretfords first shot on target and then a hopeful punt by Rojo went a long way taking out Otamendi and Delph who found Rashford lurking in behind and presented him with a gift, leaving Ederson with no chance. The half-time score was an injustice based on the balance of play, but the scoreboard is still the prime source of information.
In days gone by this would have been the signal for United to take the game by the scruff of the neck, you know, like they do against poorer teams, but against the leagues " big boys" they seem incapable of achieving that, Arsenal apart nowadays. And anyway, we all know the ten minutes after half time is "City time," prime time for a City goal.
Once again that proved to be the case and once again it was a laugh a minute in the bus station. Once again it was a dead ball situation created, once again, by Chopper Herrera. This time it was David Silva who delivered the killer free kick. It looked an easy clearance for the covering clown, Lukaku who this time clattered the ball into Smalling and it rebounded to Otamendi who couldn't miss. What goes around comes around Herrera. Why don't you kick the ball instead of whatever else you feel the need to kick?
Kompany needed to be replaced at half time. As is his want, Guardiola sent on a more attacking player in Gundogan. This meant a more defensive role for Fernandinho, but City were still pressing ahead. After seventy minutes Mangala was brought on for de Jesus, which once again released Fernandinho and restored the look of the team. It obviously perplexed United because they offered nothing in resistance and never really looked dangerous until closer to the end of the match.
A couple of great saves by De Gea kept the Stretfords in the hunt, but they didn't particularly reap any benefit or confidence from their keeper's efforts. Ederson wasn't to be outdone making a similarly impressive save from Rashford, following another slip-up from Delph.
This forced the decision to enter Ibrahimovic at the expense of Lingard and was the signal to remind the world of the "Wimbledon Way" and bring a new set of elbows into the equation. Mangala certainly stood up to the battle but in among this the disgusting excuse for a footballer Herrera, clearly cleanly tackled by Otamendi who quite visibly won the ball, took to the floor and screamed when Michael Oliver gave the Blues a free kick and booked him for diving. He could and should have seen a second yellow for his dissent and man handling of the referee, but the incident was managed well by Oliver who has at times been ridiculed in these pages. In my opinion he has matured as an arbitrator.
And so to the very end. The time we talked about earlier in this piece and time it was for the drought-ridden super-striker to remind Mourinho why he flirted him from Chelsea. Another up-and-under move got Martial free on the left. He played it into the six yard box where Lukaku effectively had a tap-in. Somehow Ederson stood his ground and was also available to save the rebound. Not only did Lukaku get a chance to rehearse the equaliser but also a chance to execute it. Zlatan might not do auditions, but Lukaku now needs them. This double save by Ederson was simply exceptional. If it would have been the net minder at the other end we'd never hear the end of it. I'm simply happy Ederson was there and that he confirmed to us what a fantastic keeper he is.
And what about the smoke canister thrown at Bernardo? The FA are taking no action about it! What a laugh!
And also what about the shenanigans in the tunnel. What business is it of Mourinho to interfere with City's celebrations? He has no right to enter City's changing room and if he has to pass it to get to his press conference then they should reorganise their tired and tatty stadium. This man never has any dignity. They say he is a winner, he is simply a bad loser, as is all of his ghastly football team. Would they not be singing their "U-n-i-t-e-d! song (as Lingard led and tweeted in their dressing room after their defeat of Curzon Ajax in the wake of the Manchester bombing - Ed) if they had won? Yes, Maureen there is a difference in education. It is you who is thereby lacking, you who has no class, you who is not really a United-type manager, you who should be getting sacked in the morning.
It is for reasons like this that the footballing world detests this football club and their sanctimonious supporters who deserve trophies every year "because of their history". Mourinho has created a one-dimensional team who would be beaten more regularly if teams had the courage to take them on or if they didn't have De Gea.
With Chelsea getting caught by Moyesout's boys in East London and Stretford coming up empty at the theatre of nightmares, City find themselves eleven points clear of the field. It is refreshing to see Pep keeping them grounded and not allowing them to think too far into the future.
Sue was disgusted that Liverpool couldn't capitalise on Chelsea's misdemeanour. Quite why Klopp went into the Merseyside Derby with two of his best players grounded is incomprehensible. Mane's refusal to play in up to three unmarked players and greedily miss the chance for me should ensure he is benched for the next match as Liverpool tossed away two points especially when equally inexplicably Lovren pushed over Calvert-Lewin when their was no initial danger.
At Planet Etihad, we are delighted at the outcome of the weekend. I suspect there will be a bit of refreshment about the team to take on Swansea in midweek ahead of a difficult match against Spuds at the weekend. The games come thick and fast don't they?