DERBY: City vs. United (30/11/2008)
By Andrew Cuff
Monday 01 Dec 2008 11:00:00
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The match day every year that we look forward to, the big match against City. United needing to clinch every point they can in their attempt to claw back some of the points they lost earlier this season. City having a lot to prove after a massive buy out at the start of the season the still lie mid table.

Ferguson appeared to be down playing the match and its importance to United saying that United had more important games, personally I feel this match like every other in United’s campaign is important. You cannot afford to lose against big or small clubs no matter where they lie on the table, every win counts and as a team we needed all three against City.

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Though United came out confident, the big surprise to the starting line up was the inclusion of Berbatov, who missed United’s last two outings and was doubtful after injuring his hamstring.

Once again this meant that Tevez was left on the bench; I am becoming more and more convinced he will be leaving United in the near future. Rafael once again managed to get a first team start, amazingly Neville was not included in the starting line up and the young right back once again needed to prove himself. Ronaldo Carrick, Fletcher and Park made up United’s midfield.

United started their domination early, with Rafael making runs down the right side like Gary Neville has done for the past decade and providing an extra man to feed the players in the box, however Park seemed to be getting more crosses in. Ronaldo came close in the 14th minute from a Rooney corner and soon after Rafael set up Berbatov who forced the City keeper, Joe Hart, to save it.

The United midfield proved instrumental in the continuous attack on the City goal, Fletcher who really is an under-rated player linked a number of times with Berbatov and Carrick as always providing a solid defence in the midfield and somehow always finding open spaces on the field. United however nearly went a goal behind after Van Der Sar parried a punch into Stephen Ireland’s path but his shot was saved by the outside of the United post.

Rooney though was the man to put United ahead after Hart was unable to hold a Carrick shot. Rooney had little work to do, but his placement was perfect to slot home the ball from a yard or two out. The palmed ball by Hart just lay nicely for Rooney and he managed to finally reach his milestone 100th club goal, though it is his 83rd for United.

It really showed how United have been struggling to put goals in the net, a full half of pressure and they only just managed to secure the solitary goal, like at Villarreal early last week where a full game of pressure and domination left United with a draw.

The second half City started to come back into the match with a couple of changes they managed a few promising counter-attacks. Berbatov came closest in the second half, but the bizarre dismissal of Ronaldo turned the game in favour of City.

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Ronaldo was rightly given a yellow card for a hard tackle on Wright-Phillips, but a few minutes later he was on the receiving end of a corner and hit it away with both hands, in his defence he claims there was a whistle which made him think the game had been stopped and he was just retrieving the ball. This apparent deliberate hand ball earned him a red card and now is likely to miss a few games.

Dunne came the closest for City though it was in extra time and the shot was thankfully cleared off the line, Van Der Sar who hardly seemed to feature in the game seemed content to have a handful of time on the ball. Rooney completed the game with a 40 yard lob over the head of a retreating keeper; though he managed a good save to keep united the single goal ahead of City.

Arsenal’s Robert Van Persie secured Arsenal an away victory against Chelsea helping United in their mission to reach top spot. Liverpool table leaders play tonight and a loss again will help United.

United currently lie 5 points behind Chelsea and Liverpool with a game in hand against Chelsea. Arsenal creep a little closer currently 2 points behind United and back in the top four. An interesting time in the season, United take on Blackburn on Wednesday in the Carling Cup and host Roy Keane’s Sunderland on Saturday in a late kick off.

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