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United 2-0 City: Two goals, and two statements

Derby day came and went, United need another four points for the title. A banner that read 33 years was unfurled. Ronaldo scored through another freekick and, with United’s domination of proceedings, the match was effectively over by the end of the first half.

A limp, unimaginative City side also contributed partly to the one sided nature of the first half. It was only in the second, when they tried their best to throw everything at United — not to mention, United trying their best to afford enough space and give up enough possession — when City held a sliver of hope to get something out of this.

United’s starting XI was without Rooney (rested) and Rio (out with some injury, depending on which paper you read). Evans came in for Rio whilst Rafael got a run out at right back. I did come across an interesting anecdote on the Guardian, concerning Rafael:

Hanging from the wall inside Rafael da Silva’s front lounge is a framed newspaper cutting showing a photograph of the young Brazilian beating Robinho to the ball during the first Manchester derby of the season. Beneath it, the Manchester United right-back has written with a thick dollop of teenage brio: “Rafael had Robinho in his pocket.”

Cheek isn’t in short supply, but he still showed he has a long way to go before becoming a good full back. His first season has been a revelation; not much has been expected of the twins, yet they made a pretty good transition into first team football. Rafael’s performances have been adequate, and on many occasions better than adequate, but one must realise that these efforts have come in the face of a lack of expectations; meaning mistakes tend to be excused. And it is for good reason. Last year Anderson was hailed as the second coming of [insert great midfielder], but this year he’s taken a while. Expectations can make a big difference to the way players are perceived and judged. Rafael didn’t have the best of games yesterday, when I thought O’Shea might have been a better choice on derby day.

There was a period of time, in the second half, when City had 61% possession. It doesn’t mean that much in the bigger scheme of things, but there were huge chunks of the game when we tried our best to give City a lifeline. At the end, it became a case of holding on and cutting out the obvious howlers; sticking to the basics seemed to be enough to see United through the second half.

I’m hurrying through all this because I needed to talk about things that have been eating into my head for the past few days. Carlos Tevez was like a man possessed yesterday. He was beating men, his striking was decisive and rattled the bar twice — with one going in off the upright. He looked close to the man I saw in pre-season. The player who had his terrifying mix of desire and actual ability to do it on the pitch. He did run around like a headless chicken and his first touch was a bit on and off. But if what he said in the press was anything to go by, his performance showed how desperate he was to prove a point.

Now I’m not against players proving a point on the pitch. Far from it. Players are meant to prove points on the pitch. That’s what their paid for. And a manager will take that any day. What irks me is the way some players go out to do it in the open, in the press.

I defended Tevez when he first came out with his statements of frustrations; he gave everything on the pitch, and it’s possible to make a telling case of Fergie preferring Rooney over Tevez on countless occasions. He’s also had some disappointing outings, when given the chance, but even that could be put down to a lack of continuous playing time. However, when a player keeps going to the press about it repeatedly, always trying to play the ‘fans are with me, but the club don’t respect me’ card, it begins to chip at the levels of sympathy I have in me for the player. There’s making a point once, and there’s ramming it down our collective throats.

Sort it out, Carlos. You are a good player, and if Kia Joowhatsisname valued you closer to your true value I’m sure Fergie/Gill would’ve had little worry over pulling out that check book. It’s not a lack of respect. Don’t make this harder than it already is. As fans we can chant “Fergie, sign him up!” all we want. But there’s a reason we are not in charge of signing him up; we’re fans overcome with emotion and caught up in the moment. We love players who’ve been good for us and, even if not good, who are honest triers. Sometimes, odd as it sounds, the men upstairs have a better grasp of financial realities and the value of a player with respect to the team than us.

I would have loved it had Tevez handled himself professionally like Gilberto Silva of Arsenal — who in his last season was stripped of captaincy in favour of Gallas, lost his midfield place to Flamini and saw himself phased out of the side, yet spoke nothing to the media about it. But that sort of professionalism is rare in football these days, and I could tolerate Tevez for his initial outbursts. But there’s only so many quotes in the press a mind can take.

I just hope it gets handled well from here on and, whatever be the outcome, it doesn’t end in tears for yet another Argentine at United.

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Another fine example of a player doing the noble task of putting himself over team was in ample evidence as Ferguson took off Ronaldo in an attempt to rest him. A shake of the head is understandable for a footballer looking to always be a part of the action, but throwing the kit away in anger and walking off abruptly after the final whistle is just sad. Ronaldo is a personality singularly capable of inducing awe and disgust in supporters, and it’s this see-saw of emotions that can actually be hard to take for many fans. To me, sometimes, it’s tiring. Dealing with Ronaldo as a Manchester United fan can best be explained by the following analogy — I mentioned it yesterday in the comments and I’ll mention this again, quoting from one of the comments at the Guardian sportblog:

George Orwell once commented that it should be possible for the human mind to encompass the facts that Salvador Dali was both a fabulous artist and a disgusting human being.

As a United fan, I think the same comment could be applied to Cristiano Ronaldo.

Now I am not calling him a disgusting human being, but merely applying the analogy where a person and his skill at his craft can evince entirely different reactions from people.

It’s shocking to see players looking to steal some of the limelight when we are on the cusp of our 18th Premier League title and the possibility of winning (and retaining) the Champions’ League.

But, we march on, nevertheless. We have to.

We’ll never die.