Ever Italian to the end, Roberto Mancini’s final substitution of normal time was to replace Kolarov with Gael Clichy, a like for like substitution at left back, and although Clichy can take a good penalty, was this really what Mancini should have done with the score tied on 73 minutes, especially with new signing Aguero on the bench? Mind you, this was the man that replaced striker super Mario with midfielder Gareth Barry during the same game, leaving City once again looking lacking up front, with Edin Dzeko still being hit and miss, scoring a goal via dubious keeping and missing a couple of sitters to boot.
City, during pre-season, subbed Balotelli for Miller – albeit after the former’s audacious attempt to score a backheeld goal – and again left City looking somewhat toothless upfront. With the young Italian’s fondness for red cards and suspensions, not to mention his somewhat questionable temperament, this seems to be a problem they may well face on a regular occurrence. Who knows how long want away Tevez will last, and if Aguero will bed in quickly enough and score goals straight away. This leaves Mancini with Dzeko and Balotelli as his main strikers, and with his ever adventurous mantra of subbing one of them for a midfielder after the hour mark, the question of just how adventurous City plan to be this season must be asked.
Of course, ask Chelsea fans, winning a title on the back of a brilliant defence and 1-0 victory’s is never a bad thing, and if negativity on Mancini’s part win’s them silverwear, you would not hear them complain – initially at least. However yesterday negativity did not bare dividends, and when you compare the attacking changes made by Ferguson, Cleverly for Carrick in the middle of the park for instance , the question of if Mancini’s negative substitutions cost City the game begins to get ever more pressing. More than that, the mentality of United was better, more positive and more adventurous.
City were sloppy – demonstrated non more than in Kompany’s slip up for the Nani winner, whereas United were sharp, pressed and cajoled for the ball whenever they could and had the ever present ‘never say die’ attitude that Fergie instils in his boys so well. Mancini has no such mantra, and did not look to press forward and increase the 2 goal cushion, or change the shape of the team when United got back into it. By replacing Balotelli with Barry – the king of passing sideways and back – City practically invited United to come and attack them, a move that did not exactly pay off. David Silva was the only City player who stood out, and that was only in the first half, with little time afforded to him on the ball in the second half.
The major difference at half time turned out not to be the two goal difference but the subsequent reaction of the managers in the dressing rooms and after on the side-lines. Whilst Mancini will have undoubtedly been trying to explain to his players they needed to spend the next 45 minutes defending their lead and never – god forbid – fail to take football seriously and attempt a crowd pleasing goal, Fergie was unleashing the hairdryer, ringing the changes and the United that emerged for the second half took the game to City and were well worth their victory in the end.
Of course, City fans will tell you that it is only the Micky Mouse trophy and was just a pre-season game. United fans will point to the victory and say it is the start of an unprecedented season of success. The truth lies somewhat in the middle of that, with it indeed being a marker laid down by United and in some way revenge for the FA Cup loss. City it cannot be denied have a very strong squad, as do United, yet the difference come May could well be the managers and the choices they make during crucial points in games. If you’re a betting person, judging by yesterday, the smart money is on Fergie for now.
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