There is not a shadow of a doubt that Johnny Evans’ clumsy and lazy defending cost Manchester United dear today after he hauled down Mario Balatelli. In the second half City’s attacking talent was able to pick apart United’s 10 men with ease, particularly as the home team tired towards the end.
Yet City managed to come out of a first half performance where their red rivals had the lion-share of possession with a one goal advantage. How?
Full backs don’t often get the limelight, but Richards and Clichy were phenomenal today and completely stifled the contributions of Nani and Ashley Young. A combination of wonderful positioning, matching pace and patience helped Clichy and Richards stay with their men at all times. They didn’t dive in unless they were 100% certain of getting the ball and tracked the wide men doggedly, both on and off the ball. In the end, Young and Nani became ponderous, unimaginative and wasteful with their final crosses.
Mancini would have been delighted to see the support Silva and Milner offered their full backs throughout the period of equity. Ferguson will be frustrated by how easily the pacey width that has troubled so many other sides was neutralized by the Italian’s tactics and the assiduous application of the men in sky blue.
Richards in particular was superb and also got the assist his performance deserved – I also felt his booking was a little harsh. From an England fans’ point of view it is encouraging to see such a fine performance. Perhaps we won’t have to see Glenn Johnson’s impersonation of defending in an England shirt again.