Tuesday, 4 November 2014

‘orrible day – excellent result!

I said before the game that I know a few folk who don’t like derby days and, I added, I can fully understand and appreciate that. Yesterday wasn’t a pleasant experience; it often leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and yesterday was one of those occasions.

The result certainly added some much-needed sugar to sweeten the taste though…

Getting the ‘nasties’ out of the way…

Having had a quick beer in the house before leaving to head to ‘the local’, we found, unusually for my boozer, a considerable queue of customers waiting outside. No red shirts at this stage but a smattering of blue ones.

We had a couple of pints in there before getting a taxi to the ground and as we left, the pub was filling up nicely and quickly; with both Blues & reds sitting at the same tables chatting as mates.

Taxi arrived pretty much on time and the short journey found us at the ground within 5 or 6 minutes. No issues whatsoever as we crossed several roads but as we approached our turnstile, about 5 numpty reds were walking around singing their rather unflattering songs whilst brandishing a few cans of half-consumed ‘brew’ (in an Police-imposed 'alcohol ban zone' for the day).

The City fans responded by hurling all sorts of verbal abuse at the small group from within the safety of one of the access turrets as my wife & I passed within inches of ‘em; just as they were ‘gripped’ by the Police. Cans confiscated and a body search done, they were marched off to ‘their side’ of the dividing barrier.

‘The verbal’ continued as we went up the turret and we finally reached the “sanctity” of the bar, where pint numbers 4 & 5 were consumed. With a long day ahead I was drinking too much / too quickly. That’s derby day for you (for me); hoping to get through it with the aid of [too much] booze.

The usually-relaxed, pre-match bar area had 'an edge' to it today and after bumping into an ex-work colleague / friend, I just couldn’t wait for the game to begin to be honest; anything to relieve the tension.

Boos rang around the stadium as the Manyoo players came out and even more so as they kicked off and took fairly-short-lived possession of the ball. And then, of course, all the usual fan banter ensued...but with a typical derby day 'spike' to it.

As tackles flew in and Rooney was getting up everyone’s nose – including, literally, the referee - the language was certainly colourful from the stands…and I certainly don’t exempt myself from that shameful behaviour.

After the game, and just as we’d exited the turret, some Manyoo fans must have either got out of the stadium at the same time as the home crowd or there were a number of them hanging around who hadn’t been to the game as, with a rush of fans and police alike; a small skirmish broke out on Manchester Road. It appeared to be over within 20 seconds or so but with encouragement from some Blues around us, several City fans began an attempt to run over and join in. It was brief...but it was all fairly ugly and very unnecessary really.

There were no more issues though as we walked back to our local and once in there the atmosphere was good; with both reds & blues mingling and, “happily”, chatting once again.

A red came over to me and grinning, as she was, through a false, very painful-looking smile; she first asked us if we’d enjoyed the game. Immediately after that she then asked if I thought there should have been “...more cards”. Straight away I answered,

“Yes, Rooney should have been sent off for persistently getting into the ref’s ear; in a repeated attempt to get our players booked or sent off”.

“Do you not think that he’s allowed to do that being the Captain?”, she replied.

“Not to that extent; I thought he was taking a fancy to him at one stage!”, I responded quite sharply.

Another red later told me that Police had to intervene a while before the game when both sets of fans attempting to travel to the game by Metrolink were pushing each other off the high platform and onto the tracks!

Since the game I’ve had a text of “Phew” and an e-mail that said, “Thank God that’s over”. Darby games, for a lot of fans, just aren’t a fully enjoyable experience and considering it’s a flippin’ GAME that a lot of us pay good money to ENJOY then this one is almost a complete write-off in that respects.

All things considered though - and I HOPE no-one from either side got hurt - it wasn’t too bad on the day I suppose. Only 3 arrests according to this report in an apparently well-organised, pre-planned Police operation. And compared to derby days in some parts of the world, I’m sure, this one was like a pre-season ‘love-up’ friendly game…

To the business of footy…

We’d left the pub to get in our taxi before the game to the news that the back line consisted of no Gael Clichy and no Eliaquim Mangala whatsoever. With regards to the latter; apart from being told at the ground that our new £32M man had a “hip injury” I’ve seen nothing on the WEB to the contrary…but neither to support that rumour either. I rather think that he was taken out of the firing line by his manager after showing no signs of improvement in the last 2 games. Extra training sessions & DVD watching me thinks…

Then we got to the ground to discover that Gael Clichy had stepped in for the injured (during the warm-up) of Aleks Kolarov. I have to admit that I felt slightly better for seeing the French left-back, despite his AWFUL performance at Upton Park.

Before all of that I must admit that, as well at raising an eyebrow to the absence of our most expensive defender, I took a small gulp of air (as well as beer) at the thought of the much slower Martin Demichelis facing Manyoo’s newly-assembled fantasy team attackers.

Thankfully, though, Radamel Falcao would be missing...

The team set-up looked pretty good - I was slightly surprised to see Navas start, thinking he’d go with Nasri instead, but was very pleased to see Jovetic chosen ahead of Dzeko.

The overall post-game stats suggest that it was a close affair; more of the 'shots' & 'shot-on-target' going to us. And that’s pretty much how it felt on the day for me; with each side enjoying their fair share of play in their own ‘spells’.

My recollections are that we had the majority of the first half with Manyoo having a couple of 5-minute spells to break up our dominance. And, then again, we dominated for a good 20 minutes at the start of the second half; Manyoo by then having played with 10 men for the last half hour.

But once we’d made the breakthrough – as Pellegrini has since pointed out in his post-match interview – Manyoo rallied…or was it that we stood off them a little? Either way, aside from a few City chances - not least Navas hitting the woodwork - Manyoo had their best spell and a decent amount of chances in the final 20 minutes or so.

It all left us ‘clock watching’ to say the least - we need to start killing teams of as other ‘top sides’ often do!

I have to say that it was a very good fan mosaic in the North / Family Stand organised, so I have heard, between the Club and the 1894 Group. I can't find any images as yet and will publish one as soon as I do. Needless to say it was far better than the black bin-bag one done a while back for a Champions League game...

Key points

Well the sending off of course – Smalling was indeed “stupid” to hack down Milner having already been booked and, as a Blue, it was heartening to see them down to 10 men on 39 minutes. If I’m being honest – and I like to think that I am – had the game been 11 v 11 throughout I fancy it would have been a draw.

Huh…Rooney. As the teams came out I just knew he was ‘on one’. He burst from the ranks after the line-up and made a more-than-obvious, over-dramatic run over to the East Stand; before performing a sideways, crab-like run in front of the City fans who responded exactly how he would have expected us to.

One for the album...
And then he was off! Running after the referee like a petulant prat time and time again in an effort to get City players booked (or worse). 7 cards and not one of them for the over-zealous donut was a travesty!

Notable performances, for me, came from Hart who literally saved us on several occasions. And Clichy who, apart from a couple of ‘off’ moments later on in the second half, showed us EXACTLY what he's capable of being! He was a picture of energy, enthusiasm and proficiency both in defending and supporting the attack; gaining ‘an assist’...and my MotM.

Perhaps the manager's 'chat with the players' that Pablo Zabaleta revealed in this interview about the need to improve individual performances worked...

Milner again had a very good game throughout and Toure was notably much better than of late and so deserve a special mention also. And then there's Aguero, of course - where would our attack be without him?

That brings me onto a player that I don’t WANT to single out in the ‘negative column’ but feel I have to, simply because I personally expected a little more from him.

Stevan Jovetic certainly tried and tried for the 71 minutes that he was on the pitch and that, at least, is far above what we get from Edin Dzeko most of the time. But there were some notable bad decisions and misplaced passes from the Montenegrin forward and, personally, I felt really frustrated for the lad.

But, in his defence, it looked like no matter what he attempted (the better stuff that is) just wasn’t coming off for him at all against the Stretford lot – and I hope his manager can see that the effort was there and that, on another day, it would have paid dividends I’m sure. I also have to remind myself that his 'minutes on the pitch' over the last 14 months haven't been many [through injury & illness]...

I’m desperate for Stevan and Sergio to be given a chance to flourish as a partnership; it’s the combination I want to see face QPR on Saturday evening (5:30pm KO GMT).

v CSKA Moscow

But I have to remind myself also that we have a certain Champions League game to play tomorrow night; remind myself because I’ve decided to give up my ticket – as I did last season in the very same fixture on the very same date – to stay home and look after the dog; who doesn’t, shall we say, appreciate Bonfire Night as some might do.

So without the aid of any pre-match press conference, I’m going to stick my neck out and try to predict tomorrow night’s starting 11, subs and match outcome.











Subs: Caballero, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Fernando, Toure, Milner, Sinclair, Jovetic

There’s a bit of ‘assumption’ here folks and so I’m not expecting to have my best predicting moment here…

Hart to 'go again'.

I have to assume Kolarov is still carrying whatever it was that he picked up just minutes before the derby and so Clichy to ‘go again’ too.

I am going to assume also that our manager was simply taking Mangala out of the firing line against our neighbours from just West of Manchester and will, therefore, stick him back in alongside our Captain for tomorrow night’s game; possibly leaving the French central defender out at the weekend in case ‘arry does a ‘big Sam’ number on him at Loftus Road on Saturday.

Zaba to become victim of the ‘wing back’ rotation as Sagna gets a go.

I think Milner will get a deserved rest ahead of the weekend’s important and somewhat tricky fixture and having had both a bit of a rest and small run-out; I think Nasri will start this one. Similarly with Yaya & Fernando; with Fernandinho and, quite possibly, Lampard marking his possible extended stay with a start against the Russians. Navas to run his little legs off again I think.

With a slightly heavy heart - but eternal optimism - I’m betting Manuel will plumb for Dzeko ahead of Jovetic; Aguero to ‘carry on’ too but possibly being withdrawn early, yet again, ahead of our trip to London.

A strong bench in all areas of the pitch in case needed.

Result? Surely…SURELY a home win.

A bit of advance notice: I intend to do a brief, pre-QPR Blog-posting but I am then away on a small holiday and so, as such, won’t be doing a post-game one. In fact I need to start doing some research soon into where there might be a pub that will both allow dogs in and will also showing the game! Wish me luck…

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