At full-time, this one hurt.
It’s easy to be defiant about it now; claiming we were robbed with the penalty that should have only been a free-kick, and that we generally out-played them from start to finish. But after the final whistle was blown, and even more so, on the 65th minute when that pathetic loser who just can’t forget about his old club scored and acted in a way that isn’t even worth mentioning; I felt truly sick.
As for the display? We showed more guts, determination and attacking prowess in the last 10 minutes than we have done throughout the entire season; with Rooney’s high shot towards the end, struck brilliantly from the outside of his boot and ending a truly beautiful counter-attacking move reminiscent, dare I say even better, than Ronaldo’s 3rd at the Emirates last April.
This over exaggerated proclamation about our powerful, dominant finish to the game is not so much a blisteringly attack on United’s performances this season, but more admiration towards our resolve on the night. Of course it was to be expected – staring a derby defeat in the face warrants nothing more than a no holds barred display – but we’ve seen it before this season; namely at Anfield. A place, similarly as vile as the CoM, where you’d expect that extra resolve; however on the day it was shockingly nowhere to be seen. Last night though, when it mattered, we performed dominantly and maintained our dignity; and although it had no meaningful impact, we prepared ourselves psychologically for an almighty encounter at home.
Tactically though, disregarding the heightened levels of potency in our performance after we fell behind, it was the same old failing story: that unproven yet overused 4-5-1. For all our possession around the City area (where the majority of the game’s possession was focussed) we struggled in the first half to really make many chances count. The first and only time we tore into their defence in the first half, through some neat footwork and resilient possession by Valencia, resulted in a goal. Other than that though, our confident approach and solid build-up was not matched with a finish as, well, it seldom found a finisher.
Rooney, yet again, was isolated in the lone striker role. That’s not to say he had a bad game, as he was his typically determined, motivated self; just not necessarily in front of goal. He’ll always fight for the cause, chase every ball and undoubtedly be in the thick of every attacking move, yet as our only viable attacker, he can often lack dimension, or more than likely, be found completely out of position. Once Owen came on, providing that added dimension and option, we surprisingly enjoyed our best period of the match. The crosses and through-balls into the box were no longer misguided; regularly reaching their target and now materialising into genuine chances.
So for now; disappointed? Perhaps. But even more so, we are determined, frustrated and down-right f*cked off. That filthy city rat has made us rather up for the 2nd leg, where we’ll unquestionably enter the arena on the 27th with our heads held high, knowing the job can easily be done if we perform with as much vigour as we ended the game, and even more so if we scrap the 1 up-front at go at them with everything. Let’s see them try and fend off that sort of pressure for longer than 10 minutes.
And lets face it, the ref DID mess the game up as soon as he pointed to the spot, and we genuinely DID outplay them for 90 minutes…so here’s to Old Trafford!