FOX Soccer Exclusive
Rooney highlights thrilling derby
You won't see a finer advertisement for the English game than today’s derby in Manchester. That was 90 minutes of pulsating soccer, with some great goals and fine play. Every aspect of the game was on display today – it was just breathless stuff.
Now we have a very interesting race: United are six points clear of City and ten of Chelsea, but thinking that this race is over is a mistake. Seven teams are within six points of third place, so I see a really ferocious campaign ahead.
For me, the man of Sunday’s match has to be Wayne Rooney. He was simply fantastic today, and it was great to see him not only score his 150th Premier League goal, but surpass Bobby Charlton’s record in derby games as well with ten in this fixture. He is tireless up front, brave in his movement, and the work he put in today in the back offers an object lesson for anyone who wants to succeed in this game. Rooney would still be a special player if he just stayed up top – but he doesn’t. He puts in a real shift at both ends of the pitch and that’s why he is world-class. For me on his day, there’s no better player in this league.
You also have to give a lot of credit to Sir Alex. He once again gets the game-plan right. City played bunched up in the center of the field, and United just went right around them on the touchlines. That width was the difference in the first half and it wasn’t until Roberto Mancini put Carlos Tevez on and pressurized the United backline, that things changed in this game. Keep in mind that Sir Alex figured out how to snap a two-year long unbeaten streak at the Etihad for City in the league, which is a testament to how tough the Sky Blues have been to break down.
But I also think you have to look at Mancini’s decisions today. He has an incredible combination in Sergio Aguero and Tevez, and instead he gets a bit cute, in my opinion, with starting Mario Balotelli. Tevez has to be a starter in this league – he is one of City’s best and I cannot see why he’d be left behind. I think he did that because Balotelli has done well against Jonny Evans in the past. Balotelli did very little out there today and I did not like seeing him go right down the tunnel after being taken off. I think that’s disrespectful to your teammates and to the club – and it’s a sign, for me, that City has some real issues with managing all those egos.
I also have to strongly condemn what happened in the closing minutes of the game today. It was disgraceful to see the scenes at the Etihad, awful to hear some of the chants being made, and dreadful to see Rio Ferdinand get hurt by an object thrown from the crowd. Banter is one thing, but what we saw today has no place in the game, and no excuse for it either. In my view, all of us in this game have to stand up and speak with one voice on this, and help stamp it out. I have personal memories of incidents like this one: I was involved in a hooligan incident when I made my debut for England. It ruined my day and the image of game, and I’ve never forgotten that.
Saturday, we finally saw a little bit of the old Fernando Torres. Those were two really good goals and a fine assist, and maybe that is just what he needed to get back on track. Let’s not get carried away, but it is certainly is what Rafa Benitez needed. Torres trusts him, and strikers are a different animal – all the confidence comes from their mindset, so this is a good thing in the long run. I think now the pressure will be off a little bit as Chelsea head to Japan and the Club World Cup. Those games are on FOX Soccer of course, so set your alarms to see them this week!
I do think Sunderland are in a bit of trouble though. I know Martin O’Neill has a great record with clubs, but 13 points in 15 games simply isn’t good enough. This isn’t a team that should be in the relegation zone but they are. I wonder how long that can last.
We also have to talk about another Spaniard, Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla. Let’s be blunt and say that penalty call against West Brom was wrong: there was no contact at all, and we’ve had a lot of looks at it. The referee bought into it, and it was a dive. That is a side of the game that really irritates me as an ex-player and as an analyst. It happens across the game, and it is something that should be dealt with quite severely, because it is cheating.
Last but not least, Harry Redknapp really has his work cut out for him at QPR. They remain winless, actually setting a record for the longest win-free streak in the Premier League. They need a result, and he desperately needs players. Redknapp is talking about trying to get some MLS players on loan – Robbie Keane being one of the top choices – and he could use them.
Remember that you can always follow me on Twitter @warrenbarton2 – I really love hearing from you guys, as it’s great fun for me. You can also always ask a question at the main feed, @FOXSoccer. Thanks as always for reading and watching, and I will see you next week for more of the best soccer in the world.