City won a fourth straight Manchester Derby yesterday, though to read some of the papers you might think they lost. It was a strange game containing good, bad and baffling thing. Here are a few thoughts…
Starting anywhere else would be a crying shame. What a man he is, and what a player. His new training regime seems to be working wonders this year, keeping Aguero fit and firing. Obviously he is the bet striker at the club, and in the league, and must play every game he is able to. That jittery feeling returns whenever he gets knocked down and doesn’t immediately get up with a smile on his face but that will (hopefully) recede the further we get into a (hopefully) injury free season.
His goal itself was classic Aguero. He was in the right place at a crucial time and put the ball in the net without thinking. David de Gea had a typically superb game but he wasn’t getting near that one.
Aguero just keeps scoring and remains the most deadly striker in Premier League history. He was understandably aggrieved to be substituted in the dying minutes but he had a great game and will, I suspect, be a happy man today.
Aguero was not the only one to have a good game. Both Gael Clichy and Yaya Toure put in their best performances of the season. Both have had what you could charitably call mixed seasons and both needed a performance like this. There is hope yet!
Jovetic earned his start but didn’t really capitalise on it. There was a lovely ball over the top for Toure in the dying seconds of the first half but apart from that his was a frustrating afternoon. This does not, however, change the fact that on current form Jovetic is a much better option than Dzeko who is currently going through one of his bad patches. The Montenegrin doesn’t have a perfect connection with Aguero yet but I’m not really sure what people expect given that they’ve barely played together.
Joe Hart had another good game in goal. The arrival of Caballero seems to have provided the boost Hart needed as he has begun to look like a good, competent goalkeeper again this season. He wasn’t forced into any era defining saves or gravity defying leaps yesterday but the saves he had to make were made and he was a calm presence for the 90 minutes. His distribution is still painful sometimes, of course.
Kompany and Demichelis continue to prove their understanding is a good one. Despite the late pressure they held up well, defending the goal and organising the team with authority.
…And whilst we’re on the subject of that late pressure…
…Why were we subjected to late pressure? It was a little baffling to see Milner taken off at the point of the game when his work rate and defensive ability normally begin to tell. I understand that getting Nasri some game time before a midweek Champion’s League clash where he will fill in for David Silva is hypothetically important, but this was just silly. Nasri is an experienced professional who could reasonably be expected to slot back in and all that happened is that United were invited to attack; A tactical blunder which thankfully didn’t cost City any points. Imagine if it had though. Pellegrini would, correctly, be under the microscope again this morning.
Let’s be honest: This made United look a lot better than they actually were. They are a team in transition who seem to think that throwing money at flashy players is a better solution than creating a balanced squad and picking a cohesive team. They should have been nowhere near that game, refused penalty shouts or not.
Yes, it is very frustrating that there were three stone cold penalties not given by the officials. I won’t go through them one by one as you’ve all already seen them and were/are suitably outraged. A lot is said about the state of refereeing in the game by a lot of people, but surely we can all aspire to just having referees who display basic competence? This whole story of how plucky underdogs United fought back to put the frighteners up a faltering Manchester City would have been irrelevant if the gap had been three or four goals by that point.
Through incompetence and inaction the referee created a lovely fiction where United came out happier than they should have.
It was a strange game, but the most important thing is that City won the three points and can rest easy before the vital midweek game against our racist friends CSKA Moscow.
At the end of a particularly depressing run of games City found the light at the end of the tunnel and can smile. It was not a perfect performance but it didn’t need to be against flawed, indecisive opponents.
Written by Alex Timperley who is on Twitter