Pride in Battle
By Michael Hammond, Mon 09 January 2012 11:51
It was a peculiar feeling as we descended the concrete spirals in our droves, spilling out onto the forecourt and into the grey Manchester drizzle. From within Eastlands, thousands could still be heard demonstrating their support and love for the blues. It was a similar, exuberant atmosphere outside - joyous even, people were smiling, patting each other on the back, energised by the performance.
What a difference forty-five minutes makes. At half time there were altogether different emotions, I don't know if it was just the thought going through my head or me reading looks on people's faces but my mind kept going back to the 6 goals we had scored at Old Trafford. "It should have been 10" reverberated around the ground as kick off approached, but I can't have been the only one offering up a silent prayer that it wouldn't be again.
The match began well for the blues, but after a strong start from City, Kolarov left Valencia with far too much room on the right wing and he sent in a wonderful cross that Rooney finished in expert fashion. How glorious that must have looked for the visiting fans after the week they've had. Worse was to quickly follow. Now I might be in a minority, but watching live, although it seemed Kompany clearly won the ball I wasn't surprised with the red card, harsh yes, unexpected in today's climate? No.
It was to be a bitter blow, after recovering from a slow start to the season; Vincent has been magnificent during the past two months, back to his imperious best. Mancini shuffled the pack, and we so nearly struck back immediately with Aguero calling on Lindergaard to make an exceptional save. That was to be the highlight of the half for City as United dominated.
It's been difficult to find fault with Mancini this season, but his changes were not only ineffective, but they positively made matters worse. Withdrawing the human dynamo Milner into the right back slot, not only weakened the centre where Richards was obliged to be moved, but left Johnson so isolated as to become completely superfluous. In turn this left Nasri, recovering from illness, and Silva to hold off the United midfield. An uneven battle.
Now, I don't blame Bobby for trying this, but I do find fault that when it became abundantly clear that it wasn't working, he didn't make his half time changes earlier. Was he shell-shocked? Not sure, but while Roberto, Kidd and Platt fiddled, City were burned, and effectively the holders were out.
That was then, and although clearly too late, the changes were made. The second half started just the way we needed it to, and led by the magnificent Agureo and Milner ably supported by Lescott, Richards and Zabaleta, City not only saved face but so nearly fought back to claim a replay. The real pity for me was that we didn't have a more physical attacking option to bring on. Given the way Demba Ba and Ameobi dominated the United back line during the week, a fit Dzeko or Balo could have made all the difference.
Pride in Battle. How often have we walked away form a derby defeat before? Plenty, how often have we walked away feeling like that? Not that I can remember. This was the red half's chance for atonement, pay back for that humiliating defeat. 3-0 up against 10 men, you could almost see those black clad, hooded fans licking their snarling lips in anticipation. But this is a different City, one that won't crumble, one that is stronger than they ever feared.
We relinquished one trophy yesterday, but few would bet against the boot being on the other foot come May.