Give Manchester United the underdog role, especially in a Premier League match, and they flourish. Wayne Rooney was built for matches like these, with tons of space to operate in and show off skills at both scoring and providing for others, while Robin van Persie simply doesn’t care who he plays against and the stature of the match, he’ll find a way to score.
And to think both players could have ended up on the other side of the derby; Wayne Rooney seemed on the verge of an exit in late 2010 after another falling out Alex Ferguson. Manchester City were more than happy to welcome the United player, as they did Carlos Tevez once he had enough of life at Old Trafford.
When Robin van Persie began the sea-saw that was this summer of speculations regarding his future, City looked like the team that would grab him in the end. Juventus couldn’t afford him, and City looked set to outbid anyone when it came to supreme Premier League talent. Somewhere along the way Mancini, not getting enough support financially from the men above him, missed out on the best striker in the Premier League, and now sees himself six points below United. Eight points weren’t enough to deny Manchester City last season, but they never lost at home, or in a derby.
A brilliant match, at least in terms of excitement was marred by ugly scenes from men who shouldn’t get to step on a football field again, with racist chants in the stands and a coin pelted at Rio Ferdinand. Joe Hart stopped a fan from trying to reach the Manchester United player while he was bleeding from the cut formed above his eye.
But on to football, and United, this time without any refereeing help, maybe even despite Martin Atkinson, came away with a similar finish to the one vs Chelsea. A quick 2-0 lead that seemed to come out of nowhere. Dodgy defending strikes back as the team allowed their opponents to make things level again and wait till the final stages of the match, or the very last moment in this one, to show that this team has much more than the nine lives of a cat.
It was pleasing for some to see how well the trap was set by Ferguson. Fifteen minutes of playing like an underdog, like a bottom feeder, without making a single attempt of building up play slowly and patiently. This team is about quick strikers, and needed that one opportunity to execute a fantastic counter attack, as Robin van Persie dropped the ball to Ashley Young, while Wayne Rooney pulled around two defenders. His finish was bad, but Joe Hart had a terrible day. That sent Manchester City into shock, while Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young torched the flanks in a brilliant day from the two.
The second half was what we’ve seen a lot from United this season. Some Robin van Persie brilliance, hitting the woodwork before Ashley Young scored but was signaled for an offside that never happened, and nothing more. United can’t clamp down like they used to in previous years. An overload of physicality and strikers usually finds its way through any kind of defensive combination.
The final moment was van Persie’s, now with 11 league goals, accounted for 16 points. A perfect striker, a winner. Not the first or the only one on this Manchester United team, but the best of them, and currently, the reason they’re way ahead of everyone in the title race.