What a Sunday that was. Both sets of Manchester fans expected a top game of football and luckily the game lived up to the expectations. It had everything you’d expect from a top of the table local derby. It had drama, goals, yellow cards and most importantly, it had Manchester United come out as eventual winners to extend their lead at the top of the Premier League table to six points from Manchester City.
Looking at the game before the teams came out, I was pessimistic and would have happily settled for a draw. But as soon as I saw ‘Super Mario’ in the Manchester City team and I saw the return of Antonio Valencia in United’s, my pessimism soon changed to pure excitement as it was the first time in a few months that I truly believed that we could beat City in their own back yard. The 96 minutes of madness told many different stories. Not just the result, but more importantly the players performances.
The return of Antonio Valencia
The return of Antonio Valencia was a much welcomed site. With both Valencia and Nani being sidelined, Manchester United have been left with only one out and out winger in Ashley Young for the past few weeks. This means that the team has being playing fairly narrow and trying to attack teams down the centre instead of down the flanks which is usually where we create chances from. Valencia’s comeback enabled us to go back to the classic four in midfield with two wingers and two central midfielders.
Even though Valencia didn’t have the best of games, he still looked to take on Gael Clichy down the line which is what we have being missing in recent games. It showed with over 50% of United's attacking play coming down the right hand side, including United's second goal.
Also, Ashley Young looked far more comfortable back on the left as he has been used as a right winger at times which is a rather unfamiliar position to the former Watford starlet. It is crucial that Antonio Valencia stays fit for United as he adds a new dimension to the squad, but even if he does stay fit, there’s no doubting the fact that we are in urgent need of a couple more wingers.
Let Rooney roam
Another problem for Manchester United recently has been the form of Wayne Rooney. As Ferguson referred to in a recent press conference, Rooney needs a good run of games to get his form back to scratch, and that is exactly what has happened. A superb performance against Reading last week was topped off by an outstanding performance at the Etihad on Sunday.
Rooney is the type of player who will play in any position on the pitch, but when he’s given that role behind the main striker, I see a different Rooney. I see something extra too his game which I don't see when he’s either up front or on the wings. It’s almost like he thrives off the freedom of the pitch, being able to track back and make a crucial tackle in his own third, something he would be unable to do if he was playing as an out and out striker. The ability to pick up the ball in his own half and hit a 40 yard pass to the feet of a team mate.
Everything Rooney does in his own half reminds me of a cross between Paul Scholes and Roy Keane, a deadly combination which is not to be messed with. The firepower and engine of Keane and the eye for a pass of Scholes. When Rooney is giving the freedom to roam, he never fails to show why he is often labelled as one of the best players in world football.
The rise and shine of David De Gea
Ever since his first couple of months at Manchester United, David de Gea has being scrutinised for more or less every mistake which he has made, especially the mistakes he has made from crosses. But for me, the lad keeps getting better and better.
His shot stopping has to be up there with the best in the world and his distribution isn’t far off too. But what we learnt from Sunday's derby was that de Gea has all the foundations to be one of the greatest goalkeepers to grace the Old Trafford turf.
At the age of 22, de Gea has another ten or so years to reach his peak. What all Manchester United fans need to consider is how much he has grown since that nervy, shy and shaky 19 year old joined us in the summer of 2011. If he continues to improve at the rate he has, the young Spanish stopper may one day dominate the world of goalkeeping.