Sunday 11 September 2016

Manchester United 1 - 2 Manchester City - The most expensive game in the world

I'm biased. I've supported Manchester City since 1968 and so when it comes down to it, I'm highly chuffed to see such a result. In yesterday mornings Times newspaper, every single pundit predicted a United win or a draw. To see City play United off the park was a pleasure to behold. To me, it seemed like football vs anti football. City tried to make openings through creative play, United tried to lump the ball up to the big men and hope City's new goalkeeper Claudio Brava would make more than one serious mistake. The battle was waged between the two alleged best managers in the world. Both have a stack of medals in their cabinet for various Champions League, Domestic League and cup competitions. Strangely for smeone with such a reputation, Mourinho defied logic by not starting with Markus Rashford, who seems to terrify the living daylights out of opponenents. I suspect that Mourinho's logic was that he was there if he was needed. Within 20 minutes, it was pretty clear he was desperately needed. For such an expensive squad, with such a high profile manager, United seemed to  completely forget how to play football. Jesse Linguard seemed unable to pass or control a ball. Paul Pogba, the most expensive player in the league, seemed to forget what role he was playing or the basic rule that if you are a midfielder and your team hasn't got the ball, you have to chase back and keep your shape. Daley Blind seemed to be intent on doing an impersonation of a traffic cone, as Kevin DeBruyne simply ran past him and scored.

As for City, the team seems 100% improved on last year. They have picked up more points from all of the games they've played this season than the corresponding game last year. This fixture was a 0-0 bore draw. Yesterdays game was anything but. Mourinho took the half time break to make subsitutions and reorganise. United came out for the second half with a renewed sense of purpose. They looked to make a game of it and were unlucky not to have a penalty. Mourinho, as his is way, blamed the ref for unjust decisions, omitting to mention that a couple of his players could also have been sent off.

I saw estimates that 900 million people were watching the game and that it was the most watched ever match. It is fair to say that the audience would have seen a cracking game and got value for money. Whilst there is no way you can really justify the ridiculous sums footballers get paid or cost to be transferred, there is no argument that the game commands the money and generates the wealth. Manchester City have been turned around and regenerated by the huge wealth of Arab investors. They have not only put money into players, but into the academy, the club and the area. They are a model of ethical investment. Uniteds owners are Americans with a commercial agenda to generate as much money as possible from the club. The relative lack of investment in United as resulted in a sharp decline since the heady days of Alex Ferguson, with United missing out on the Champions League last season. The owners, realising that they needed to address this, have gambled on Mourinho and big name players to revive their fortunes.

It was rather sad to see United start with only two British players, and that was Luke Shaw, who came via Southampton and Wayne Rooney. Rooney seems to have lost his ability to change the course of big games. In fact, only Markus Rashford, an academy player, seems to scare opponents. It looked to me very much as if Manchester United are playground bullies. They will turn over lesser teams with their physical players and big names, but they are no nearer being the real deal than they have been since Ferguson left. Of course Mourinho has only had four Premiership games and he will have learned a lot about his squad yesterday. I can only really see United improving. I think they'll be back in the Champions League and may also pick up a pot.

As for City, it is also early days. The team seem to be working hard and seem to understand what Guardiola want. Players who looked decidedly iffy last season, such as Ottamendi and Kolarov are thriving. United had a real opportunity yesterday, with Aguero and Kompany out of the team. When these two are back, City can only improve. There is huge debate about the goalkeeper. It is fair to say City fans love Joe Hart and for the fans, the jury is out on Claudio Bravo. Guardiola has no such doubts. His philospohy is that a ball playing goalkeeper gives you an extra man. Anyone who watched the first 40 minutes of the match would have noted that City looked like they had the exta man. The pundits noted that every Premier club manager will have noted that there is a question mark on crosses and City can expect to get bombarded. I suspect that Guardiola is not too concerned about this. His view is that if you have the ball, you won't have to worry about crosses. I suspect that at Christmas, we'll have a clearer picture. Like United, City had 2 English players. Sterling and Stones, both of whom have seemed to flourish under Guardiola. Both are expensive imports from the Merseyside clubs. I suspect that both will continue to consierably improve, which hopefully will be good for England. Both had one of their quieter games, but it is all part of their learning process.

So what have we learned from the most expensive game of football in the world. It would seem that if you get the two best managers in the world and the two most expensive squads, you will get a pretty compelling game of football. Mind you, I've watched my son play for Watling Youth Under 13's in the rain in Cressingham Park and seen some damn fine football there as well. Football is a funny old game. I just hope that in a couple of years time, we see a few more products of the excellent United and City academies on the pitch. Both Rashford and Kelechi Iheanacho are acedemy products and both seem to be able to influence games. My hope is that the best managers can bing more out of the academies best. I suspect that City will buy another centre forward in the next transfer window as this is one area that they seem short in. Lets hope that doesn't freeze Kelechi Iheanacho out in the way that seems to be happening with Rashford. I must say that Rashford does seem to be making a statement, which Mourinho can't ignore for much longer.

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