In the end, my gut feeling came to pass. For the past five years, Manchester United have gone into every game as favourites (with the exception of last years' European Cup final). That favourites tag does put players under immense pressure to get a result lest the hell will break loose.
After THAT defeat to City at home in the league in October, our noisy neighbours suddenly found themselves huge favourites for Sunday's Cup fixture. In fact, many United fans were looking for a performance in this one, and not quite the result that seemed out of reach.
But alas, it's the FA Cup and being underdogs in this competition, in many ways, does make you 'favourites' in a twisted sense. Playing as underdogs in a huge fixture for the first time in quite a while was always going to work in United's favour---I mean, haven't we always been at our best when our backs are up against the wall?
The team News going into the derby couldn't have been more dramatic. I had ignored the Paul Scholes story earlier last week because I dismissed it as one of those from which lazy journalists sought to make quick money so I was caught dumbfounded by the news that he was on the bench.
Then the manager who is an expert at giving journalists misleading team news in his Friday press conferences, named Chris Smalling in the starting lineup again----meaning Valencia could finally play in his customary right wing spot.
Wayne Rooney rose well to send us wild within the first ten minutes and then kissed the club crest to send a message or two to City. Then Vincent Kompany got himself sent off by going in the tackle with both feet off the ground. Now, whilst the ABUs will tell you that it wasn't a red, it should be pointed out that Chris Foy acted to the letter of the law and hence cannot be faulted for not exercising his discretion.
We would go on to dominate the first half and add to our tally through a brilliant take by Welbeck and Wayne Rooney from a re-bound off his spot-kick.
The second half however told of a different story as we became slack in possession and let City force us into mistakes that they profited from. the manager was displeased about it-----calling it carelessness but I hope we somehow improve our ball retention for the remainder of the season because it has cost us possession far too easily over the last few games.
To be fair City did put up a good show in that second period but Roy Keane summed it up brilliantly when he said that you can give City all the credit you like but they're out of the Cup! Couldn't have put it any better.
It was even more pleasing to get Liverpool away in the fourth round of the Cup as that is another big one that requires no player motivation---much the same way as this game didn't need the manager to rally the players after the Newcastle defeat. Looking forward to that.
Finally congratulations to Wayne, Sir Alex and Vidic upon their FIFA honours last night.
Onwards and Upwards!
Labels: THE FA CUP