Thankfully, tonight’s League Cup semi-final at Old Trafford between the two Manchester clubs, the Manchester Derby, gave us what we all hoped for. A scintillating battle of speed, guts and power with the odd flashes of sheer brilliance thrown in for good measure. The BBC had even sent their top sportswriter, Phil McNulty, to cover the event in anticipation of a memorable match. The game ended with a last minute winner from Wayne Rooney to break Manchester City hearts for the second time this season but in fairness, United had looked the more dangerous team.
A lot of the sting had been taken out of the pre-match drama by the FA and the respective clubs by dismissing some media claims that this would be a free for all . The crowd however were having none of it and the atmosphere at game time was electric and remained that way through the whole 90 minutes. I would have given a year’s pay to be in that United dressing room before kick-off to listen to Sir Alex Ferguson preparing his players ready for the battle. I wonder if the hairdryer was plugged in !
The Bellamy incident was something to forget and United will pay a heavy price for that . Howard Webb did a great job in keeping the lid on the tension but as a United fan , I think we were very lucky to get away with Ferdinand’s tackle on Tevez in the first half . It looked a penalty to me.
As usual, Ferguson’s old campaigners Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs were at the heart of their attacks. Darren Fletcher provided endless running in midfield and Edwin Van Der Sar also played his part in keeping the scoreline even at the interval.
United dominated the action in the second half with Rooney and Fletcher going close. Scholes scored with a typical low drive to put United ahead and Michael Carrick slotted home a lazy shot to put United well ahead in the tie with only 19 mins left. Rooney should have buried the tie from 8 yards out before Carlos Tevez fashioned a goal to level the tie on aggregate. He turned a soft Bellamy cross into a neat flick down low into Van der Sar’s right corner and took it right off Ferdinand’s head to do it.
In typical United fashion, they didn’t wait for extra time and Rooney powered home a header in injury time to send United into the final at Wembley. From a Giggs cross, City goalkeeper Shay Given was rooted to the spot on his line which allowed the England striker to sneak in and score the winner.
Personally, I watched the highlights which I have linked below, and in all of the games I have seen at Old Trafford, this is the loudest I have heard the crowd since the 1978 UEFA Cup tie against FC Porto when I thought I had gone deaf. That was also in the days of the Stretford End terraces before the all-seater format. A great atmosphere.
Rooney is simply unstoppable right now, and England fans must be praying that he hasn’t peaked early and retains his form going into the World Cup in South Africa in June . In this kind of form, he is one of the potential stars of the tournament and he has single handedly made the name of Christiano Ronaldo a distant memory at the Theatre of Dreams.
A fantastic end to a thrilling match between two very talented sides.