ADVENT REFLECTION: HEAVENLY METEORITE HURTLING
Lyric For The Day 10.12.12 from A King and a Kingdom by Derek Webb

SPORTING SURMISE: STOCKI ON THE MANCHESTER DERBY

Derby 12

There really was always going to be one winner. Going into
injury time I told my Red father-in-law that United were going to steal it again. It hurt... BUT not like it used to. We have got used to such late United winners in the last five years; Michael Owen, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes... now add yet another tormentor Robin Van Persie. Yet, it is not becoming familiar with that kick in the gut that made the pain disappear quicker than usual. It was that moment in May when, for those who don’t already know, I had left to deal with utter abject soccer heartache in my garden only to miss
Sergio Aguero ending 44 years of misery by scoring 15 seconds after United’s season had finished with them as Champions. Winning that Premiership was like erasing all the years of deep sporting pain. I actually don’t even mind if United win it this year and we the next! Whatever, yesterday was a big win for Manchester United. They rarely get to give the Champions their first away defeat in two years. You see, that last sentence fills my ache with a whole lot of soothing!

Let us turn away from the subjective though. Let us talk about the game in objective terms. Without doubt Mancini had the tactical disaster this time around. When it was announced that Balotelli was starting instead of Carlos Teves there was no one in the western world with any idea about soccer who could quite understand. As stupid as Balotelli himself one could say! What was he thinking?! The only possible answer I can find is that he was trying to catch Sir Alex off guard. I mean even Mario doesn’t know what he’ll do so if Alex has set up his team to deal with Carlos and Sergio then maybe Roberto thought he’d throw him a curve. Sadly, he threw himself a curve. The guy might have immense natural ability but he hasn’t the head to use it. We won the league because he was banned and we had to play Teves and Aguero. Learn the lesson Roberto.

Sir Alex though had learn his lesson and didn’t make his April tactical howler this time. Mancini’s only slight encouragement has to be
that even Ferguson, the greatest manager of all time, can make massive mistakes. United fans should realise that it was Ferguson’s attempt to out-muscle City in midfield in April that cost United the title. Ya Ya was not going to be out fought and an average, aging, United midfield couldn’t work the draw needed. Yesterday Sir Alex made sure that didn’t happen again. Don’t pack the midfield, pack the team with match winners. Ferguson’s ability to win games and
titles that his players had no right to will be forever evident in  that, when the record books are opened, John O’Shea will be seen to have won  five Premier League winners medals! This summer, instead of the midfielder United still needed to be complete, Sir Alex invested his money in RVP.  United are six points ahead not because they
are the best team in England but because they have the most game changers in England. Young and Valencia have the magic to unlock any defence and Rooney and Van Persie don’t need four chances to score three goals. Poor Joe Hart had nothing to do but pick the ball out of the net!

So, United are six points clear and still have City at home. It looks like a big lead. It is a big lead. However, it is hard to believe that
City will not fire at some stage of the season and they were eight points behind at a much later stage last season. United, however, might buy that midfielder in January and Vidic about to return is a huge help in a spot that seems a little vulnerable. To have created a six point lead without him is like a Rugby team extending their lead while down to 14 men. Chelsea are starting to find form again, particularly Mr Torres, but I am not sure that they don’t need
another year and maybe another manager to be the threat they have been in the past. There will be many twists and turns as Christmas come and goes and the long winter takes hold. City’s lack of Champions League has to be the only plus that they can take out of this week. They will now be hoping United make it all the way to the final to give them seven games less to play.

One of the other subjective truths about this defeat has been that the derby isn’t the start and end of City’s season. We can still lose
to them and have something to play for. However, they need to find that final pass, that was so easy last season, very soon indeed. I for one am now enjoying the intensity of these games whether we win or lose. Rio Ferdinand was even on X Factor last night and it felt that we were back in the late 60’s when I was a kid and Manchester ruled the soccer world. Believe it or not I supported United then! Less Balotelli and that scum in the City crowd throwing coins and more of these ding dong derbies, that’s what I say!

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