Thursday, 11 November 2010

City 0 - 0 United

  • Well that was certainly better than losing in stoppage time. It was a fairly dour game, with only one or two goal-scoring chances at either end. We looked for a 0-0 and we got it. United played nicer football than we did but we're a good enough defensive unit that when we want a clean sheet at home we can usually get one. Some people might criticise Roberto Mancini for being so cautious, but I'm fairly relaxed about it. After the events of the past year or so there are worse things than being very averse to losing derbies.

  • The plan was the same as the Chelsea match. If possible, dominate possession, if not, stifle the opponents and at all costs keep a clean sheet. Then, where possible, breaking through David Silva and Carlos Tévez. It was harder than the Chelsea game: United were much better in midfield. They effectively had Paul Scholes, Michael Carrick, Darren Fletcher and Park Ji-Sung in central midfield, outnumbering us, with Scholes and Carrick seeing a lot of the ball. But in terms of goalscoring chances there was one for Patrice Evra in the first half, one for Dimitar Berbatov in the second half and that was it. Our second consecutive clean sheet, I think we're over our brief defensive blip.

  • The second half of the plan - nicking a goal - was harder. In truth, we didn't create a single proper goal-scoring opportunity. With United dominating the midfield, we found some space in wide areas. But with only Tévez up front there was only so much that could come from James Milner and David Silva's crossing. Too many times we swung crosses in and they were repelled by Nemanja Vidic. We won eight corners, and with Vincent Kompany, Jérôme Boateng and both Tourés in the box we ought to have done better with them - but our delivery was never quite there.

  • There were moments when Yaya Touré or Carlos Tévez nearly broke through the middle but United defended too well to gift us the spaces we needed. I'm not entirely sure Carlitos was 100% fit, but this was a further illustration that when he isn't on top of his game we struggle to create chances. Was there anything Mancini could have done differently? Put on Emmauel Adebayor, maybe, for more of an aerial threat. But for whom? We could barely have afforded to lose another man in the middle. Adam Johnson from the start, and risking United full-backs running rampant. Containing United is difficult, and necessitates trade-offs from other areas of the side. I can't say I'm too upset with his decisions.

  • Ultimately, I don't think Mancini's decision today - that not losing was the most important thing - was far wrong. After five straight league derby defeats, three stoppage time derby defeats last season, a run of three defeats that only ended last Sunday, it cannot be underestimated how damaging another defeat would be. Yes, in times gone by, we could go for United, knowing that the difference between no points and three would not make a major difference in a season that would see us finish somewhere in mid-table. But this season is different. We need to be fourth, and we need to be clear-headed about achieving that. This is the game we're in.


Dominic said...

I have to agree in entirety with your points, Jack.

We just couldn't afford to lose the match, and we didn't, it' as simple as that. It appeared ol' Fergie felt much the same.

People seem to think that we can win a game just through the want to win, forgetting that there are 11 opposing players out there, who are capable of punishing us.

It's the steady accumulation of points that'll see us get in the CL places this season - Not necessarily flamboyant displays of attacking football, only to be undone by the opposition.

Crazily, Hughes got praise for losing a game by playing too open. That baffles me.

OxfordBlue said...

Concur completely. Losing the game would have opened up the media frenzy box again and I think Mancini made the right moves.

The need to build confidence, avoid another punishing defeat to the rivals against whom we are being measured was paramount. The media want us to fail and are disappointed when they can't drag out the 'look how the experiment is failing' articles ...... So they drop into criticising us for not taking risks.

StanMCFC said...

I disagree. I think it's an opportunity missed. Don't mind us drawing, just I would sooner us gamble a lot more.

Had United been at full strength, maybe this would be a good result. But there was nothing in their line-up last night to really instill fear.

I don't want to get on Mancini's back but most senseless was his decision to play less than 100 per cent fit Tevez on his own up front.
Surely Adebeyor could have played some role, on as sub if not starting the game.

Really was pointless to see crosses going in and no chance of anyone getting on the end of them.

All in all very cautious - and i don't believe ALL the media are on our back. There has been a vendetta, but neutrals seemed genuinely excited by the prospect of last night's game.

And I can see the media's point about expecting entertaining football given the level of investment in the squad.

So disappointed, but hopefully a springboard for far more attractive fare!

pjdemers said...

Excrement. That's what I think of the arguments justifying the"playing not to lose" mentality. Winning football matches is not simply a matter of deploying the right tactics and part the reason I believe City are struggling is that Mancini places so much emphasis on tactics that it actually handcuffs the players. Tactics do have role play but so does passion and commitment and force of will.

I also vehemently disagree with the comments that teams cannot win games simply through the sheer will to win. When you have two evenly matched teams like last nights derby, whose overly cautious tactics negate each other, than the result simply comes down to the simple question of which team wants it more. In short, a sheer determination or will to win.
Successful teams win games precisely because of this very quality. And it is this quality that Mancini's is failing to instill in this team.

Let me be clear, I do rate Mancini quite highly as a manager, but it is also clear to me that he places too much emphasis on tactics and not enough on motivation. When I look at the body language of the players, while I do see commitment I also see hesitation (James Milner take a bow). What I don't see is full blooded ruthlessness and confidence, an "over my dead body" attitude, a belief that through sheer force of will they can win the game. Successful teams have this trait in abundance

If City want to win trophies, want to qualify for the champions league, then they have to stop playing not to lose and start playing to win. Let the chips fall where they may but this team and this manager just aren't pulling their weight.