As a writer living on the West Coast of the United States, I was up early this morning as kick off was at 5.30AM out here. I couldn’t sleep, waiting for my alarm to go off, and I had a great feeling about what was going to happen today; I was actually convinced United were going to win 2-1, with Di Maria getting the winner in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Watching those first 39 minutes today I still felt fairly relaxed about my prediction, and although Smalling had been booked for a schoolboy offence, I wasn’t sensing too much danger coming from City. United looked confident and comfortable on the ball, and with De Gea in such fine form, it was going to take something special to beat him. Then on 39 minutes I watched with disbelief as Smalling lunged to the ground in a sliding tackle when he had absolutely no chance of winning the ball, clattering Milner to the floor and leaving the young Michael Oliver no choice but to send the fool for an early bath. Whilst City didn’t score in those remaining 6 or so minutes of the first half, my early morning optimism quickly turned to just hoping we could keep the score respectable.
City piled on the pressure and Aguero scored a good goal, but United kept going and definitely showed an impressive spirit; you can tell that this team is very much together, and will fight to the end to try and gain points. Rooney should have shot at goal after a terrific run through the City defence, and Fellaini had a really great chance shortly afterwards. On another day we could easily have gone home with a point.
De Gea, as we have come to expect, was superb. Luke Shaw is improving with every game. Rojo had his best game in a red shirt and we will miss him now he has joined our list of injured players. Blind was solid without doing anything spectacular. Fellaini looks like a new player, determined to prove us all wrong, which is a great plus for the squad. Rooney gave everything and you could sense his leadership on the pitch. Di Maria was disappointing again for the second week in a row, and against the top 2 teams in the country, but I for one wish he wasn’t being played out so wide as his best games for Real were when he was given a free role, dictating games and creating so many goals for his teammates. RVP was OK, but I really hope we can get Falcao fit and firing on all cylinders as RVP appears to have peaked and just doesn’t look the same player as 2/3 seasons ago.
Overall, there are plenty of positives to take from today’s performance, and at least we got to see the Citeh fans frantically chewing their nails in those final minutes against the 10 men in red. If Smalling had not been such an idiot, I stand by my prediction and believe we would have taken all 3 points today. We have 9 games before the turn of the year, which include Arsenal, Southampton and Spurs away, with Liverpool at home. We need to target 23 points from these 27 to end the year in the top 4 and setup a strong 2015 finish. This writer is confident we can do it – if this team can start firing and go on a run, no one will stop us finishing in that top 4 and I can honestly see next year the shift in power in Manchester coming back our way with United and Chelsea fighting it out for the May 2016 crown.
Smalling, you let your team and the fans down today; get a grip – you actually looked pretty good against Chelsea but today you seriously cost us 3 points.