There were many positives to take from Manchester United’s disciplined performance in their goalless draw against City, but Sir Alex Ferguson has been left with an unneeded headache.
A virus has plagued most of the squad for over a week now, so it was always going to be a big ask for them to put in an all-out, end-to-end performance against an improving City team, but in the end, United still showed that they are still the class team in Manchester.
The draw extended United’s unbeaten run to a very impressive 25 matches – their longest since the inception of the Barclays Premier League – but it came at a cost as they could very well have lost a few of players for their next match.
Ahead of their lunchtime kick-off at Villa Park on Saturday, Sir Alex is without at least one player through suspension, and a potential two more after they suffered knocks, which will make them serious doubts to face Aston Villa.
A disappointing aspect from the match were the injuries that forced Sir Alex to use two of his three substitutions to replace both his full-backs.
Both Rafael and Patrice Evra were forced off with lower leg injuries early in the second-half, but thankfully the Gaffer had experienced, capable defenders in Wes Brown and John O’Shea to bring on as their replacements.
Rafael was seen hobbling around during the intermission – perhaps it was because of the rough challenge that Carlos Tevez put on him, which led him to square up nose-to-nose with one of the most hated men in the red half of Manchester.
However, the versatility of Brown and O’Shea showed that they were very able and willing to cope with the expensive City wingers – despite the former receiving a justified yellow card for a hard challenge on James Milner.
O’Shea also had a slip up when there was a bit of confusion between him and Nani and it allowed Pablo Zabaletta a chance at goal, but thankfully he was a full-back rather than an attacker, because United could have been unfairly punished.
With City dropping off deep, it allowed United the majority of the possession, and both of these well-rounded, adaptable defenders assisted in the attack.
It was Brown’s delightful cross that created the space that was needed for Dimitar Berbatov to strike an acrobatic volley, but it was hit directly at Joe Hart.
The final kick in the teeth for Sir Alex was that Paul Scholes picked up his fifth yellow card of the season, which will see him miss the match against Aston Villa.
The fiery midfielder was buzzing around looking for ankles to bite in the first-half, and finally Chris Foy had enough of it.
The challenge he got booked for on Milner was a very soft, professional foul, so Scholes more than likely received it for Persistent Infringement, which is given for committing multiple fouls.
Even though United earned their fifth shutout in the Barclays Premier League, it came at the expense of shifting focus away from their attack, and they could only manage another solitary point from their efforts away from Old Trafford.
Yes, it was the tricky short trip to the City of Manchester Stadium against their bitter local rivals, but United have only take maximum points ONCE from their six away games this season, which is not good enough to win the league.
In his pre-match press conference, Sir Alex stated, “They’re a very experienced, formidable side and anybody who finishes above Chelsea will win the league,” and right now United are four points behind them and struggling to get anything away from home.
Up to this point in the history of the Premier League, a club has been unable afford to drop 10 points from their away games all season long – which is something United have already totaled after just six games this season.
The visit to Villa Park will certainly show not only the resolve, but the depth and quality of the Manchester United squad, and it is supposedly the return of you know who.