For the first time in nearly three weeks (!) I got the chance to sit down and watch Manchester United play. I wasn’t hopeful, at all. We lost to Blackburn on New Years Eve, then lost to Newcastle on Wednesday, and since Manchester City are a) leading the Premier League, b) playing this derby at home and c) they have a ridiculously expensive/experienced/strong team, I knew we were underdogs and I knew we’d have it tough because we’d lost the previous two games and were seemingly on a downward slide. So, yes, I was pessimistic. I love United, but I know when we’re in trouble and it seemed that if we didn’t get our act together, City would stuff us yet again and 6-1 would start to look like a reasonable score.
For the first ten minutes, it looked like everything I thought was coming true. We were penned in to our half and City were passing the ball with ease. Until we broke, 10 minutes in, and Rooney scored an excellent header. All of a sudden the game changed and we were on top. A little bit later, Kompany was sent off and I didn’t know what it was for. I thought he’d handballed it, actually. Turns out, he’d gone in with both feet on Nani. It wasn’t a sending off, and it was very harsh of Chris Foy, but it happened and that’s pretty much the end of it (though I reckon it will indeed be rescinded). From then on, we were on top. Welbeck put us 2-0 up with a WONDERFUL piece of athletic skill, when he volleyed into the net. It was a supreme goal. Then Welbeck was fouled by… er…. I forgot his name, Kolorov I think he was, and we had a penalty, which was taken by Rooney and saved by Pantilimon (I call him Fanta Lemon!) but Rooney put the rebound in with his head and we were 3-0 up and OUT OF SIGHT.
We went into half time confident, hoping to score more… but it all fell apart in the second half. Kolarov scored a free-kick (a good one, as well, actually, it pains me to say) and Aguero got another one back after a piece of sloppy play from Paul Scholes (yes, Paul Scholes) and all of a sudden we were under pressure for the last 30 minutes. It wasn’t as if City was battering us, but I knew it would take just one attack, one second, and City would somehow, unbelievably, be level. They didn’t deserve it, and it was more a case of we were careless than City really pressed us to get back into it. Don’t get me wrong, City’s spirit was there, but it wasn’t as if they fought to get back into the game, we let them more than anything, but they took (almost) full advantage. That second 45 minutes was the longest 45 minutes I have ever endured. It was never-ending, I swear.
We won, in the end. We should have made a proper statement, but honestly, I’m just glad we didn’t lose. I’m glad we performed today, even if it was a bit ropey at times. I’m hoping this will ignite some kind of run. The FA Cup doesn’t get much easier for us, as after dispatching City, we then get picked to go to Anfield to play Liverpool. I should have known. After all the drama with Suarez and Evra, you just KNEW it was going to happen. It’ll be interesting to see how that game is dealt with. I think you can say that Evra will get a ton of abuse, which won’t exactly put Liverpool in a good light (not that they’re covering themselves in glory at the minute any way). I’m not sure if Suarez will be back for the game, either, and I’m not really going to know until the day ‘cos I’m not too bothered about him. The game will be brutal either way. The fans will fight, the police will have a difficult time controlling it, the abuse will be undoubtedly disgusting (from both sides, as well)… It’s a storm waiting to happen. If we play like we did today – at least in the first half – we can beat Liverpool. Liverpool are hit and miss, but if Stevie G plays then it will be more hit than miss because that man lifts that team like no one else can.
The other big news is that Paul Scholes is back! It’s no secret we’re struggling in midfield, though I think that’s unfair on Michael Carrick who has been EXCELLENT this season. Trouble is, we don’t have anyone to go alongside him. Jones isn’t a midfielder, and we need him in defence anyway; Giggs is more a winger/drifter rather than a holding midfielder; Fletcher and Cleverley are both out and Anderson is only just coming back from 2 months out. So it’s win-win with Scholesy really. We DO need another midfielder, someone to pull the strings, but buying in January is likely to mean you get ripped off so it’s best for Sir Alex to wait ‘til the Summer and if Scholes wants to come back to fill in ‘til then, then fabulous. It may be papering over the cracks, but it’s not desperate. It’s not as if Scholesy’s been retired a few years, he only retired back in May for crying out loud. So it’s been an interesting day, to say the least, but we won. And that makes me SO happy. SO SO HAPPY.