Monday, 18 January 2010

Derby preview

When our semi-final was postponed I was pleased. I thought that it would work in our favour. Twelve days later I'm not so sure. I had a few reasons for thinking this. First was the benefit of Mancini spending more time working with the players, assessing them, teaching them how he wants them to play. While I'm sure that's gone on behind the scenes, and we certainly played well against Blackburn, the defeat at Goodison Park destroyed all the momentum we had built up in those opening four wins. Moreover, I'm not sure our playing options are as good now as they were before. Santa Cruz has come back from injury but broken down again, Stephen Ireland is not yet fully fit - and nor is Patrick Vieira. Carlos Tévez and Martin Petrov both picked up knocks at Everton and Craig Bellamy is starting to look tired. United, on the other hand, are starting to get key players back. And there are rumours that Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic might both start tomorrow.

Point two was that I wanted someone else to take the blacklash from United's FA Cup exit to Leeds. A draw at Birmingham City only prolonged and fed United's frustration and while they were comprehensive against Burnley on Saturday it wasn't exactly brutal. Taking Rooney and Berbatov off on seventy minutes was a sign that there is still some payback to come, being saved up for us.

So I'm feeling less optimistic than I was two weeks ago. And back then I was terrified. The fact that everyone knows is that this is our first semi-final since 1981. Half of our first team weren't even born then. And it's against Manchester United, our biggest rivals. This is their seventh semi-final since 2006/07, their twentieth in the last nineteen years. If it didn't need saying, they've won the last three Premier League titles - they're really rather good.

It's hard enough playing your local rivals in your first semi-final in years when they're the best team of the modern era. But it's even harder when this is our manager's sixth game in charge of the club! This is a whole new ingredient to what is already a difficult and fascinating tie. The record under Mancini is mixed - four good wins against bad teams before one dismal defeat at Everton. As with most things, there are precedents supporting both options.

One strong argument against our success is the side we'll put out. With injuries to key players our team basically picks itself. Tévez will play behind Benjani up front, while Shaun Wright-Phillips should return to the right-hand side of midfield given Martin Petrov's injury. It's not a terrible team, but how many of those players would we rest if this was not a semi-final? Gareth Barry and Craig Bellamy, certainly. Nigel de Jong, too, probably. Tévez looked to pick up a knock on Saturday but must play. Who knows what we'll do at Scunthorpe on Sunday? Anyway, this is my guess:

This has all been a very long way of saying I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow but I think that we'll lose. I just don't know what else to expect. We don't have form, fitness, experience or ruthlesness on our side. We are a side emerging from too many changes in recent years, not far enough down the road of progress to expect to succeed this time. Maybe with everyone fit, with a bedded-in manager, with easier opposition I might back us to make a final. But not enough pieces are in place yet. I'm predicting 2-0 to United.

13 comments:

Norfstander said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Norfstander said...

(shakes head)

;-)

Hope you're wrong!

Goz said...

Sure we all, really, wanted to read that piece of complete crap.

Its still a derby, and anything could happen.

What is important though, is that our supporters lose there voices tomorrow night.

And lets help give the team, the spirit they needed on Saturday.

Com on City, Com on City.

bluedoom said...

i feel the same, the defeat at everton was a massive blow and the performance may take a while to get over, and utd are going about things quietly whilst we are laying claim to being the biggest team in manchester!

smack in the mouth written all over it...

Robert said...

"utd are going about things quietly"

Arf!

I'm not sure what such a defeatist attitude is supposed to achieve, especially before a derby.

dougie said...

Oh ye of little faith!
We are strong at home. The rags are the weakest they've been for a while now.
I don't expect a classic, but the players we have now have sufficient experience to see us through

Jon said...

Yeah, come on Jack - Keep the faith fella!

Come on City!

CTID

Revolutionary Biscuit said...

I'm confident we'll get something out of this.
Agree with the line-up though. May play it more as a 4-2-1-3 with Bellamy/Swp working hard up and down the wings.

Trevbrierley said...

I'm not so pessimistic either.

As long as Robinho is nowhere to be seen I expect a real fight from the players and loud support from the crowd.

I think there will be quite a few goals - 6 is my prediction 4-2 to City!

Henry Crun said...

Trevbrierly...NoOOOOOOO!

We need City to put as many past them as is humanly possible, the last thin we need is to conced goals making an exit on the away goals rule a possibility.

The tie needs to be put to bed tonight and to go to Old Toilet without the merest hint of United snatching the final away from under our noses.

trinder said...

Henry, I don't think away goals count in the Milk Cup.

Blue Roo said...

2-0 to United, huh?

How about less blogs for Republic of Mancunia, and less Rag players selected in your best Premiership XI, and more getting behind the team, huh?

Henry Crun said...

trinder, away goals rule applies at the end of extra time in the second leg.

City currently 2-1 up. If United are 1-0 at the end of 90 mins at OT, then match goes to extra time. If agg score remains at 2-2 after aet, United go through on the away goals rule.