x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Late Manchester United goal exposes City's defences

The City players stood crestfallen in their own half wondering quite how their defence, which was so parsimonious last season, leaked three goals in a single half.

Manchester United's Ashley Young and Manchester City's Micah Richards duel for the aerial ball at Wembley Stadium.
Manchester United's Ashley Young and Manchester City's Micah Richards duel for the aerial ball at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester United 3 // Manchester City 2

LONDON // Roll on the new Premier League season. The two sides expected to slug it out for the title served up the kind of thrilling spectacle in the league's curtain raiser yesterday that showed why the top flight in English football is the best product of its kind in the world.

In the most thrilling fashion, Manchester United went someway to erasing the chastening experience at the hands of Barcelona at the same venue, three months ago, by staging an exhilarating second-half comeback to floor their rivals with three goals in 45 minutes.

Any bragging rights City enjoyed following the FA Cup semi-final win over United in April had evaporated by the final blow of Phil Dowd's whistle yesterday.

Although it is dangerous to read too much into a result at this embryonic stage of the season, the way the United players wildly celebrated the victory in front of their fans suggested there was more at stake than the Community Shield.

The City players stood crestfallen in their own half wondering quite how their defence, which was so parsimonious last season, leaked three goals in a single half, including an uncharacteristic mistake by Vincent Kompany which allowed Nani to complete the comeback in the final minute with a breakaway goal.

This was after Chris Smalling reduced the deficit when he turned in Ashley Young's free kick and Nani's first goal which levelled the scores.

This was the third time in less than two years City had been sunk by a late United goal.

Roberto Mancini, the City manager, has an army of back room staff but they may need to recruit a psychologist, should they concede too many more gut-wrenching goals. "Two nil and you messed up," mocked the jubilant United fans as the City players trudged back.

Indeed they did make a complete hash of protecting a lead given to them by goals from Joleon Lescott and Edin Dzeko. It was all a far cry from City's last visit here when they strode up joyously to collect the FA Cup after their victory over Stoke.

City are past masters at getting their noses in front and padlocking the victory but they strayed from the plan in the second half, retreating deeper and deeper and encouraging United to attack. The champions did not need a second invitation.

Mancini could not deny a vibrant United deserved the victory and, to his credit, he never attempted to, although he did suggest a draw would have been a fair result.

United were the more cohesive and progressive of the two teams and the way Young, Nani, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck interlinked and interchanged will have pleased Sir Alex Ferguson enormously.

It was the kind of fluid attacking display United had been on the receiving end of against Barca.

The Scot was concerned, however, by the way Rio Ferdinand allowed Lescott to head in the first goal and then the way Nemanja Vidic allowed Dzeko to rifle a shot past the flat-footed David De Gea. "We could have closed down better for the second goal," Ferguson said.

It is Mancini, though, who has more work to do on the training ground this week before the Premier League gets underway on Saturday.

kaffleck@thenational.ae


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