City 0 United 0: A Defensive-Minded Derby

In the 157th installment of the Manchester Derby, United and City could not be separate as they drew 0-0 at the City of Manchester Stadium.

The result not only keeps United in second place in the Barclays Premier League table, but it also extends their unbeaten streak to 25 matches.

The match was hyped up to be one of the best-ever derbies, but whenever that kind of pressure is put on a match, it normally does not produce the goods that it usually would.

Even though a virus has been spreading through the United squad like wildfire, Sir Alex Ferguson was able to name relatively his first-choice starting XI, which extends the streak to 140 games that the Gaffer has made a change to his line-up.

Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick, Rafael and Paul Scholes were all recalled to start the match, while Patrice Evra, Darren Fletcher and Nemanja Vidic retained their places despite suffering from the illness.

Ryan Giggs, though, was not as fortunate, because the wing wizard has missed his first Manchester Derby match during his 21-year United career – a streak spanning 33 games or over one-fifth of the total matches between the two clubs.

In the early going, City dominated the possession and with the first half-chance came in the second minute, but with Rio Ferdinand beaten by a dink of the shoulder, Carlos Tevez opted not to shoot from a very good position.

The significance of this match was obvious, because neither team was taking a chance to spread themselves thin and going for the goal.

Nani came up with United’s first shot on goal when he tested Joe Hart from 35 yards from goal after Darren Fletcher was chopped down, but the City goalkeeper dealt with this attempt with ease.

United started to warm up and got at the City defense, and it took a very good block by Kolo Touré to deny Dimitar Berbatov’s header, which was goal bound and surely going to test Hart’s agility.

Moments after suffering from a little knock to his ankle, Patrice Evra received the ball in a very good position, he shot from the top of the area, but it was with his weaker right foot and lacked the accuracy to trouble Hart.

It was then City’s turn to get forward and it took some very good, last-ditch defending from Nemanja Vidic to deny David Silva, and the ensuing corner was eventually hoofed forward by Rio.

United started bossing the play, but they lack the final ball from Evra and Scholes were unable to unlock the very well organized City back-four.

The action from his players on the pitch was clearly not too enthralling or exciting, because Roberto Mancini was seen yawning to keep awake in the cold City dugout.

Following a corner, Yaya Touré rose highest, but the former Barcelona midfielder could not direct his header anywhere near the target and United were able to clear the danger.

Scholes fouled James Milner from just 25 yards from goal, which gave City a free-kick, which Tevez took, and Edwin van der Sar did well to get his fingertips onto his shot and touch it out for a corner.

Following another good string of passes, Evra picked out Berbatov on the far side, but his first-time hit was gathered quite comfortably with both Ji-Sung Park and Nani lurking.

Follow a couple of anxious, clumsy and some little nibbles at the City ankles, Scholes earned his way into Chris Foy’s notebook with a yellow card.

On the stroke of half-time, Tevez tumbled into Rafael, and the young right-back squared up and had a real go at the Argentine, which will do his growing reputation amongst the United supporters no harm.

After the first minute of injury-time was played, City were given a suspect free-kick down their right-hand side, but, thankfully, Silva’s inswinging left-footed cross went over everyone’s head and the half-time whistle blew.

Comically, the City players decide to wait for the last possible moment to come out for the second-half – the weather must have been too cold for these highly-paid prima donnas.

Rafael looked a little uncomfortable limping around during the half-time stretch, and was forced to be withdrawn and replaced by the capable Wes Brown.

The match continued to flow as it did during the first-half with no player taking the match by the scruff of the neck, so it was either going to take a moment of brilliance or madness to separate these two local rivals.

And it almost happened in the 57th minute when Brown’s cross was met by a clever overhead volley from Berbatov, but it was straight at Hart and the City ‘keeper claimed it.

Within a minute, City had their chance to break the deadlock, but Tevez’s tame 18-yard shot did not have any pace on it, and van der Sar got down well to save.

In the 65th minute, a game of head tennis broke out, and the good short passing play almost created an opening, but before the chance materialize Fletcher was called offside – almost.

Sir Alex was forced to replace his other full-back after Evra could not carry on suffering from a lower leg injury, and the versatile John O’Shea came on as his replacement.

Prior to the substitution, City were finally able to get numbers in their attack and forced a corner, but United defended it well as Gareth Barry whiffed his volley well wide of the goal.

Milner then fooled Brown, and in typical fashion, the tough right-back chopped the winger down to become the second United player to be booked.

Mancini then made his first change of the match by introducing young Adam Johnson for the somewhat ineffective Milner, which should add more flare to City going forward.

Man City then started getting forward and piling on the pressure on the United defenders, and that meant that Sir Alex had to make a positive change.

The young Mexican, Javier Hernandez was brought on with 12 minutes to play as he replaced Berbatov, which seem to bring life to the United attack, but it came to nothing.

Aleksandar Kolarov was brought onto replace fellow summer signing Jerome Boateng in attempts to handle the speed of Nani, Park and Chicharito.

Nani took a left shot from distance, but a good defensive block by Kolo Touré took the sting out of it, and Hart acrobatically saved it from going behind for a corner.

Four minutes from time, O’Shea committed an awful error to let in Pablo Zabaleta, who switched to right-back following the introduction of Kolarov, and the Argentinian’s left-footed shot went over van der Sar’s crossbar.

Carrick had a little bit of space and his shot ping off two different City defenders, which left Hart flatfooted, but it trickled out for a United corner.

Chicharito was played in and had a go with his left foot, but, like he was doing for the majority of the game, Kolo Touré blocked the United shot.

The last roll of the dice from Mancini was bringing Emmanuel Adebayor on for Tevez in the fourth minute of stoppage-time.

Manchester United showed that they can be a very solid team defensively against Manchester City, but the over emphasis on defense halted their attack in the nil-nil result

Nemanja Vidic was immense and a rock in the United back-four kept the City attackers at bay for the entire match.

E. van der Sar – 6; Rafael – 7 (W. Brown – 7), R. Ferdinand – 6, N. Vidic – 8, P. Evra – 6 (J. O’Shea – 6); Nani – 6, D. Fletcher – 7, M. Carrick – 7, P. Scholes – 6, J. S. Park – 6; D. Berbatov – 7 (J. Hernandez – 6)


Possession: 53%
Corners: 5
Shots (On Target): 10 (3)
Fouls Conceded (Suffered): 12 (11)
Bookings: P. Scholes, W. Brown
Attendance: 47,679

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