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Manchester City
Posted by Wallace Poulter on 05/01/2012

And frankly got exactly what he deserved, a City win and a wide open title race with two games to go. Win both and City are champions, simple as that, although with City nothing is ever as simple as it could be.

Strange game in many ways. United were quick off the mark for the first five minutes or so, but they lacked conviction – something I honestly never expected to see from a Ferguson side. Previously, United would play with a plan of attack; take advantage of a City weakness. For as much as City have played well this year they do have a number of weaknesses.

• Man Utd blog: To the victor go the spoils

Both full backs get forward as an integral part of the attack which can leave gaps behind them and with Barry and Yaya Toure in front of the back four it is possible to drive straight down the middle. Instead United played as if they were trying not to lose rather than going for a win. Wayne Rooney found himself all alone up front as United's five man midfield never showed any attacking daring. Scholes and Carrick can spray the ball around so at the very least Nani and Ryan Giggs should have been trying to get in behind the City full backs.

However, in sitting back, United handed the initiative to a City side who have had to break down a lot of opponents in similar fashion this year. It wasn't pretty, there weren't a lot of clear cut chances, but ultimately all it needed was a Vincent Kompany header on the stroke of half-time to take City top.

I still don't know why Nasri starts instead of Milner. For whatever reason Mancini continues to play the former Arsenal man, but it's hard to argue with the top of the league.

The highlight of the game wasn't even City's win, it was Ferguson losing it on the touchline and arguing with Mancini. You have to think that regardless of the outcome this year, Ferguson was seeing the end of the United dominance. City beat United two different ways this season. The 6-1 victory at Old Trafford showed what happens when United try to play open football against City and the 1-0 win on Monday night at the opposite end of the spectrum, when United played with all 11 players behind the ball.

On to Newcastle. Going to be a very tough game. I grew up on the North-East and they'll like nothing more up there than to knock City off their perch.

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Posted by tommygunther on 05/01/2012

A fine performance by City, they were the only team that looked like scoring, and it really should have been 2 or 3. I love the threat that Nasri brings with Aguero and Tevez...

Wallace Reply Milner and Richards just work so well with Silva...

Posted by hankinsohl on 05/01/2012

Hi Wallace:

Good to see you posting again.

RE Nasri: I thought Nasri had an excellent game. For me, he, Clichy or Yaya, was City's Man-of-the-Match. Earlier in the season, Nasri was really struggling but as of late, he's been very bright.

I do like Milner but I think that Nasri offers much more going forward which is important as many teams now try to park the bus against us.

Strange season. Who'd of thunk that Tevez would be back in the lineup and playing such a crucial role? I think I'd prefer that Tevez leave at the end of the season since he's so disruptive in the locker room. But on the field he's brilliant and will be extremely difficult to replace. What's your take on Tevez?

Wallace Reply I would be stunned if Tevez isn't moved over the summer. He's a great player and for all the trouble, City would not be where they are today without him joining the club.

Posted by Merle on 05/01/2012

Great article Wallace. Spot on about the Milner/Richards/Silva partnership. Silva hasnt been the same player since Milner has been left out. On the flip side of that, Nasri has been massive down the stretch, snatching a winner against Chelsea and killing off the wolves besides all the opportunities he created in the last few games. I am glad to see De Jong getting more playing time down the stretch as well. Our defense is just so much better with him playing. What do you think of Dzeko, Wallace? Its such a shame to see a player of his caliber riding the pine but with the Tevez/Kun front I cant see him starting and Mario is the first obvious choice to come on as a sub.

Wallace Reply I like Dzeko and think he and Aguero could have a good partnership going forward. Give them a summer working together and I think you'd see positive results.

Posted by Steve on 05/01/2012

I guess the difference could be summed up in following. For City Zaba, Clichy, Kompany, Barry, Yaya & Nasri all had good games. For United, nobody did.

Wallace Reply I think a lot of people,myself included, under estimated the value of Clichy. Against the better teams left back was a weakness that was exploited and he has really shut that down.

Posted by aussiered on 05/01/2012

Just like a bitter to start chirping after months of silence.
If you dont choke at Toon town,enjoy your solitary triumph cause you wont have the talent or stomach to repeat it.

Believd in United

Wallace Reply My silence had more to do with animals, yes unfortunately plural, dying and other issues.

Posted by Hari on 05/01/2012

really great to see this blog again at last!..ehy the long absence??...yeah given how brilliant milner was earlier in the season, it's astonishing that he's hardly played...newcastle as you said will be tough but city will be going there with determination... what do you think is the obvious area city need to improve next season???

Wallace Reply I still think City need a stronger central defender as there is still a weakness there when de Jong isn't playing right in front of them. That being said, Lescott has played well this year.

Posted by henry khan on 05/01/2012

End of United dominance? Didn't they say that when Chelsea bought the PL? Or when Arsenal went unbeaten? It's just one season, one title, you're too eager. Man City have better players then United all over the pitch but United still threw the title away by not beating Wigan or Everton. United didn't deserve to win the title this year; yet they were so close. As long as Fergie is at the helm you really can't write them off.

Wallace Reply Indeed.

Posted by Simon on 05/01/2012

ManU, once again, outplayed and humiliated. The Sheer arrogance of thinking you can win by just turning up. Got spanked by Barcelona and again last night got spanked by Man City. Looked ordinary. DID NOT TURN UP. Icing on the Cake was Baconface losing his cool...

Wallace Reply Yes they looked ordinary and frankly I was surprised. I expected a lot more.

Posted by Joking on 05/01/2012

Where have you been? Nothing for a month and a half, now 2 posts inside of 24 hrs. Not a city fan, but really enjoy your views and relatively unbiased :) thoughts.

Wallace Reply Life has been interesting...

Posted by Subhash Pais on 05/01/2012

Good to see you back.You went hiding for a while there when City were under the weather and i thought you were like some of those sore losers who couldn't take defeat. If win in the derby brings you out then so be it. Good to have you back and take it on the chin mate.

Wallace Reply I actually thought City would lose the derby.

Posted by MCFCBoy on 05/01/2012

Must confess I was surprised when Tevez made the starting lineup ahead of Balotelli. Even though he did nothing spectacular, I still think he put in a great shift up front harassing the United center backs. Based on his recent commitment to the club, I have to confess I would be quite sad to see him leave now.

And I have to say I disagree with your comment about Nasri. He had a great game yesterday, running at Evra and winning corners. While I do love Milner, I just can't see him starting when our tactic is to go out and attack. If we are playing a counter attacking game, then Milner would be great. But if we are going to be doing most of the attacking, Nasri offers much more than Milner because he does a great job of dragging players out of position and cutting in to the center from the wing.

Wallace Reply I agree that Nasri played well. But Milner links up so much better with Silva and helps to unlock a defense. Tevez, I thought, put in a useful shift. I can't see him staying though as his I want to leave, I want to stay pendulum goes back and forth far too frequently for any manager to deal with.

Posted by mark on 05/01/2012

stunned if Tevez stays at city? he did just ask for an extension

Wallace Reply Yeah, but I can't see Mancini putting up with him.

Posted by tony on 05/01/2012

Chelsea fan here.....congratulations to city,I hope you win the title because you've been the most consistent team all season....make sure you beat newcastle silly....we may need the favour.

Wallace Reply Indeed. I always thought Chelsea would struggle in the league this year - just a rough transition period as the team got old. Shame it cost AVB his job. That being said, win the CL final and the fourth place in the PL gets bumped from next year's CL...

Posted by Davie L on 05/01/2012

sir alex picked the wrong players,valencia should have started along with berbatof.fergy played for a draw he tried to distract mancini and did not deserve to win it was a woeful display.

Wallace Reply I can only think that the 6-1 game at Old Trafford played into his thinking. Which is weird because United won at City in the FA Cup.

Posted by Butler on 05/01/2012

I see that you're quite a fan of this midfield diamond.
I'm more attracted to Barca's 3-4-3. Yes, suspend your disbelief for just a moment. Imagine

-Kompany, Lescott, De Jong as center halves. See Puyol, Pique, Mascherano

-Richards and Clichy in the wing back roles. See Alves and Adriano. Picture de Jong acting essentially as Mascherano/Pique does, bringing the ball out of defence to join the attack.

-Yaya and Silva in the central midfield. See Busquets/Xavi. You may remember that there was a bit of a fall out at Barca a few years back, when Busquets started before Yaya and people claimed that it was Catalan favoritism, eventually leading him to joining City. Toure could function in that role, with Silva acting as a Xavi, spreading the ball from deep. I think he could adjust to operating deeper on the pitch, seeing as he comes back so often to retrieve the ball. Not to mention the added insurance of 3 CB behind him.

-Now swap AJ, Kun and Balo for Messi, Villa and Sanchez

Wallace Reply Hmmm.... I'm intrigued.

Posted by William on 05/01/2012

Tevez is a spoiled, selfish brat off the field. He is also a terrific player who works immensely hard in every game. If he departs, it will be a loss for City -- and, as you point out in a reply to one of the posts here, City would not be where they are if he had not joined the club. As for Milner vs. Nasri -- I don't think it's a question of either/or. Isn't the real question how to get the most out of these two different but talented players? It is rather a luxury to have them both available; the only issue is how to use them so that they both have a role to play on the team.

Posted by Hari on 05/01/2012

mancini putting up with tevez does seem unlikely...but remmeber what he said..."i dont decide this but if i did, he will never play again for us".....doesnt the fact that tevez was played again show that the administration leaned on mancini???? or was it just a practical move by mancini???

Wallace Reply I think it was a practical move by both sides knowing that tevez had to play to show his worth so City can get the transfer feee that they want.

Posted by Kyle on 05/01/2012

I watched this as a neutral (prefer La Liga myself) and thought United looked awful. They weren't playing the way champions should. I mean when they would get the occasional counter, and it would be Rooney up there all alone, having to hold onto the ball for a few seconds before he has backup and people in the box? Unacceptable. I hope City can grab this Title, as they deserve it, they have been the better team if you ask me, but if they win, will they crash out next year in the group stages of UCL? I mean, they spent a fortune over the summer and didnt do well, and I am sure more are being brought in this summer, I would like to see City get some REAL UCL games in (last 16 and on) but worry, because they failed to do anything with the squad they have this year. Despite Tevez leaving in the middle of the season, I would like to see him stay at City (at least until Mario matures more), him and Kun are 2 great strikers, but once Mario matures, hes gonna shine

Wallace Reply This year's CL was valuable experience for City. Also next year Silva, Aguero etc. will have played together for a year and should be appreciably better.

Posted by nomad on 05/01/2012

what about Zabaleta? He was FANTASTIC yesterday! Him and Yaya and Kompany were amazing, and generally the poise and composure and will City showed made them look like champions...a long way to go, of course, but they had a more resolute, unified feel to them yesterday which was very impressive.

Wallace Reply Agreed, I thought Zabaleta may have played his best game for the club.

Posted by Jerry on 05/01/2012

I believe what City did with Yaya and de Jong against United and Wolves is a preview of things to come. De Jong came in as a tactical defensive substitution. Yaya was moved into a forward position and he attacked the United very effectively. Next season in the tough matches, Mancini will implore this strategy

Wallace Reply I don't like de Jong partnering anyone in front of the back four. He is much more effective when placed in front but between the two centre backs.

Posted by kevin lam on 05/01/2012

not a man city fan - but excited to see changes happening. you made it, and you deserve the title. i have been watching mu's dominance since i was a kid back in the then-colony of hong kong. come on, we need change in football. thanks mancini.

Wallace Reply The title isn't City's just yet. Two challenging games to go.

Posted by Doug on 05/01/2012

The analysis here is spot on. United knew it would be tougher on the road and tried to play as many men behind the ball as possible in the first half. City were comfortable at their end the majority of the game and remarkably never faced a shot on goal! No doubt a changing of the guard, but now City have to make it count...

Wallace Reply I think all City fans are going to be a complete mess for the next couple of games.

Posted by Winston on 05/01/2012

I had full confidence of City prevailing in the derby...effectively we "split" with Man U this season - we won the more important league matches while they defeated us in the FA Cup and Community Shield.

What keeps me up at night is a possible loss away to Newcastle throwing away our title chances. How do we ensure a win on the road in this upcoming match? Makes more sense to have Milner & de Jong on the field than Barry & Nasri? And is there a spot for Richards in the back four? Or stay with Zabaleta and Clichy? The Aguero & Tevez partnership should remain up front, right?

Wallace Reply I'd actually prefer that the team revert back to the three across the middle with de Jong slightly behind Barry and Yaya Toure.

Posted by Phil Grey on 05/01/2012

I think the fans deserve a mention. They were asked to be the 12th man and they REALLY delivered. I think they took Rooney out of the game. He doesn't seem to have the mentality to handle it. Ashley Young didn't dare dive either. That's home advantage for you. Otherwise, it looks like the 1-6 result could be crucial because it's all about goal difference at the moment. If we'd only won 1-0 at OT United would still be top.

Wallace Reply If ultimately the result at Old Trafford is the difference in the title and City win it on goal difference, it will be very strange. Weirdest game I've ever seen.

Posted by Shehryar on 05/01/2012

Who's more important to their respective team, Yaya Toure or Sergio Busquets?

Wallace Reply I don't watch enough La Liga games to answer that definitively. But I suspect Toure.

Posted by Jay Dawg on 05/01/2012

I am confident anytime Yaya & Kompany is on the pitch, they are like the heart & lungs of the city body

Posted by Mid on 05/02/2012

You mentioned opposite spectrums of facing Utd. The 6-1, Evans was sent off and they were 0-1 behind, so they had to play open. Playing with 10 men open is very dangerous vs the current City.

Similarly, City found themselves in the same state during the League or FA Cup loss in Jan. At least City put up a good fight.

Also, I must mention there is a large gap in experience between most of the City players and the many young players Utd is fielding, a transition period.

Wallace reply There's open and then there's suicidal which is having Evra lose possession in the City box in the final seconds of the game leading to yet another goal.

Posted by Jonathan on 05/02/2012

I wanted to ask you about Cliche. I felt that he struggled a bit at the beginning of the season, but as of late, he has been the best defender in the city side for me. Bundles of energy going forward and has looked impossible to beat recently. Good enough to be in a league/champions league winning side?

Wallace Reply After talking with my Arsenal friends I had very few hopes for Clichy but he has been a pleasant surprise. And the hustle in the past few games has been superb.

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Wallace Poulter Wallace Poulter is an award winning video game producer, designer, industry consultant and writer. He has been a football fanatic since the day he moved in next door to Brian Clough. "Cloughie" being the acknowledged genius that he was promptly moved out and went to manage Derby. A serviceable senior school left-back in his youth, Poulter played one season of Sunday league football as a striker proving conclusively that he was a serviceable senior school left-back! Today Poulter remains involved with football as a licensed referee and most recently as a consultant on a Football MMO.

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