Saturday, February 12, 2011

Derby Days: Part One

Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City

Whew! They don’t come much better than that if you’re a Manchester United fan do they? It was a massive result for the Reds and for the winning goal to come like that…there are no words.

Stunner doesn’t even begin to describe Wayne Rooney’s 78th minute winner. Three points: it was a massive win for United in the title race, especially after the slip-up at Wolves, secondly, to score like that, it’s just incredible...and so late in the game after having lost the lead. Finally, elevating that goal from stunner to absolutely-out-of-this-world-fairytale-stuff was how poorly Rooney had been playing up to that point. His touch just before the ball was moved wide for Nani to float it in summed up his match to that point: clumsy and impotent.

Rooney was never really a threat to the City defence and he looked completely bereft of confidence, never looking to attack, always going backwards and sideways. That swift change, from frustrated non-factor…to pure embodiment of footballing genius was so sudden, it made the goal all-the-more breathtaking, and it was pretty good on its own anyway. It was so good that, as Alex Ferguson noted after the game, it completely erased Nani’s quite brilliant opener from the mind. It was so good that Roberto Mancini, when asked if he had been beaten by a moment of genius could only pause for a second, shrug his shoulders and say, “Yes.” It was so good.

As incredible as Rooney’s goal was, his overall performance in the match was quite poor. It will be lost in the furor of his winner, but Rooney looked out of sorts, as has become all too common lately. He’s not in the right frame of mind, which should come as little surprise in what has been such a turbulent year for the United man. He just looks like he’s playing on edge, over-thinking everything and the instances of positive impact are all too rare. Watching Rooney this season has been watching a man concentrating on playing well instead of just playing. He rarely attacks space as he once did. He is not lacking in ability, but Rooney’s mind is not right at the moment. There are always flashes of the Rooney of old: after City’s equaliser, Rooney took off from the restart, taking on the entire City team and beating several. United fans will hope that this wonderful, instinctive goal serves as a catalyst for the man because, as crazy as it is to say now, after what’s happened, Rooney was not worth his place in the line-up over Berbatov today.

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