MANCHESTER UNITED 1 CITY 2
10th February 2008
City Vassell(24), Benjani(45)
United Van der Sar, Brown, Ferdinand, Vidic, O’Shea, Nani, Scholes, Anderson, Giggs, Ronaldo, Tevez – subs Park(63), Carrick(72), Hargreaves(72), Kuszczak(unused), Simpson(unused)
WHAT THE PRESS SAID
So back to the day itself, and Sunday morning felt like a summer day. The pre derby match nerves were there as always, and the thought buried deep in the back of my mind (and no doubt others) that today could be our best chance to win, given the special circumstances surrounding the game. (not wishing to sound callous here, just echoing my thoughts). We met up in our usual spot for a pre match beer (and I hasten to add this is purely for medicinal purposes on our part, it takes that little edge off the nervous system, honestly!). We discussed how we thought the day would go, some light hearted banter with some reds who’ve got to know us by virtue of the fact that every derby day they see us boozing in their car park! We were all in agreement on the Benjani deal, a smart piece of business on our part, not many people get the better of “Arry”! Mind you he owed us – Jamo and Distin were great deals for Pompey. The rumour had gone round that the turnstiles were closing 5 minutes prior to kick off, so we made our way up in good time, had the usual verbals as the reds around tried the usual intimidatory stuff (bet some of them think the TV hit series Life on Mars was recorded live last week). It was the usual rugby scrum to get in, can’t believe the old bill haven’t devised a better way to deal with crowd control by now, but what do the fans know eh?!
Both teams were escorted on to the pitch, with a lone piper, before both managers placed wreaths in the centre circle. Then, the defining moment in Derby history, the referee blew for a minute’s silence, and with 73,900 reds scarves and 3,000 or so blue scarves held aloft, the most eerie silence I can remember was immaculately observed by ALL.
The only sound was the bang and echo of a couple of fireworks set off outside (we assumed it had been arranged as part of the remembrance at the time), which even if set off against the wishes of United, seemed to add to the occasion. As the ref (Howard Webb I’m glad to say!!) blew, one City punter got the first shout in of ‘Come on City’, as Old Trafford came alive, and plenty of applause in our direction for doing the decent thing. (Including a notable gesture in our direction from SAF himself?!). City fans then chanted `One Frank Swift’, and did so periodically throughout the match, which was acknowledged by the United fans).
Respect to EVERY Blue in the ground, we showed RESPECT and we showed CLASS.
Now normally the report to follow would go along the lines of brave effort by a vastly Inferior team, but United ran out comfortable and worthy winners. Well I imagine that’s what most of the press boys would have ready to print later that evening anyway. But an amazing thing happened at Old Trafford. City hadn’t read the script!!! Let me explain further!
Sven had gone for a the 4-5-1 formation, with Benjani leading the line on his own (as he has been used to doing at Pompey, scoring 12 goals this season in the process). No disrespect to Danny Sturridge at all today, but we needed all the experience we could muster to pose any kind of a threat at all to United (who were unbeaten at home in the league this season, conceding a paltry 3 goals from their 11 games). Our new Ecuador forward Caicedo was handed a spot on the bench. With Elano and Corluka out through suspension, we needed some big, big performances out there today. The first thing that took my eye was that we didn’t look the least bit over-awed by the occasion, and we passed the ball better than we have for a good while, on what was not the best playing surface by a long way (obviously they still have issues on the pitch at OT – we had of course played on a similar surface at Bramall Lane two weeks previously, and couldn’t pass for toffee!). We looked confident, and with the pace of Vassell and Petrov complemented by the trickery of Stephen Ireland, who started hesitantly but soon found his feet, we started causing United problems. The big difference was the presence of Benjani, as it was obvious pretty quickly that not only did we have an outlet up front. but his hold up play and skill was giving United a headache. Mid way through the first half, with the City fans -eeoing the volume right up (and a realising that we hadn’t just turned up to make up the numbers), Ireland swept the ball out to Petrov, who then played THE pass of the afternoon, to split the reds’ defence wide open, and back into the path of Stephen. His shot was smothered by Van Der Saar, but the ball landed at the feet of Vassell, who cannoned the ball back in, forcing the keeper in to a double save, but the ball broke lose again, and Vas was on hand to smash the ball home, GOOOAAALLL!!!
WE’D DONE IT!!! Oh what a day!!!! to be Blue. And you know what, a lot of reds will have learnt a helluva lot,( they either didn’t know or wouldn’t care to admit it, ) about City fans today. When it came down to `hey boys hey’, we showed class, dignity and respect – and no amount of trophies, money, fans can buy that – you have to earn it, and boy did we earn it at Old Trafford today.
To Sven, the management team, the players – we salute you. You were impeccable and we applaud you for giving us back our great City.