x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tevez was right to goad us

It is that passion that makes football great, United have a great chance of overturning the deficit in second leg.

The game had just finished between Manchester City and United on Tuesday night when the phone calls started jamming the switchboard at Old Trafford. I was there to talk about the game for MUTV, the club's television channel, and had spent the previous two hours watching a really good derby match from their studio.

I saw a game with drama and passion, like Wayne Rooney getting in Carlos Tevez's ear before he took the penalty which led to City's equaliser. Rooney was clearly trying to put him off, though I'm not sure that Tevez understands much English, let alone a Scouser against a backdrop of 48,000 fans going mad because a penalty had been awarded. Tevez kept his calm, scored and got a second goal too. He was well within his rights to celebrate by rubbing it in front of the noses of his former club by cupping his ears and making a yapping gesture at Gary Neville on the sidelines. Neville had said that Sir Alex Ferguson was correct to let him move to City - and he wasn't slow to respond with a one fingered salute when Tevez celebrated in front of him. Brilliant.

Take that passion out of football and the game loses a major part of its appeal. I absolutely loathed some of the people I played against (and one or two I played with!) and it made me more determined to play better against them. Tevez had a point to prove. He wanted to stay at United but he ended up moving across the city. That happens in football, get over it. But he joined a smaller club and a weaker side.

I thought United played well and deserved to win at City. They bossed the game at the start and they finished far stronger than the Blues. Important decisions went against United and they will feel hard done by. Yet despite the 2-1 loss, the United players were optimistic about their performance and their chances of overturning the deficit in next Wednesday's second leg of this Carling Cup semi-final at Old Trafford.

There's no shame in losing 2-1 away from home in the first leg of any competition against a top side - that's how we used to see it in European competition. The United fans calling into MUTV didn't agree. They slaughtered the team and the performance. There was barely a call which wasn't filled with gloom. I was gobsmacked. I'm a United fan too and saw that despite City spending so much money, United still have a better side - that's why they are nine points ahead in the league. And that's why they went to Manchester City away and attacked them from the start.

I think some of the anger from fans calling in was because of the financial situation at United. There has been a flood of negative publicity in recent weeks about the amount of money the club owe. You cannot blame fans for being worried about the club when they see the facts and figures and an ever rising debt which is now above £700 million (Dh4.1bn). They only want the best for their club and have been around far longer than the owners. When I played for United, the money from the full houses was used to buy players like me. Now the priority is servicing a huge debt after a takeover the fans didn't even want. They are hardly going to be dancing in the streets at all the bad the news are they?

City fans don't have the same worries and they will be pleased that Roberto Mancini has done well since arriving. They have taken to him and have copied the 1950s style blue and white scarf which he wears. The timing of his appointment was intelligent - as was the promotion of Brian Kidd to assistant manager - because it allowed Mancini a few easier early games which he won. City lost to Everton last weekend, but he won his first Manchester derby and that matters to the fans.

He has imposed a very measured Italian style. They are patient, but only Tevez and Bellamy were any threat to United in attack and I was surprised how deep City played. I will be at Old Trafford to see the second leg live and can't wait. City haven't won a trophy for 34 years, something which the United fans don't tire of reminding them with the big flag on the Stretford End. I'm sure that has been explained to their players and it will spur their players on, but I still think United will go through to the final and on the evidence so far, they deserve to.