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Conservative approach, meager gain (City 0, United 0)

10 November 2010

Carlos Tévez's well struck free kick was the only real highlight of a dull Manchester derby.

Roberto Mancini set out to not lose to the neighbors from the ‘burbs, and he succeeded. Unfortunately for both him and City, a home draw against a weakened United side is no longer a good result. No, tonight has to go in the Failure category, both in terms of the entertainment — or lack thereof — and single point it yielded.

With tensions in Manchester at a fever pitch, the two sides played a match that yielded a single dangerous shot on target, with Edwin var der Sar’s great flying save denying Carlos Tévez a goal on a perfectly driven free kick. United’s best chances consisted of a weak shot struck by Patrice Evra’s weak foot and a decent side volley from Dimitar Berbatov that went right to Joe Hart without troubling the City keeper in the slightest.

My biggest gripe with Mancini’s management tonight was his delay in introducing Emmanuel Adebayor. The Togolese striker didn’t come off the subs bench until the final minute of stoppage time. By then, City had already seen a number of late corners wasted on its diminutive attacking force. I would’ve liked to have seen Adebayor brought on for Yaya Touré around the 78 minute mark to go for the win.

Instead, he seemed content to settle for a share of the points. Afterward, I debated the acceptability of a draw with fellow City fans at The Banshee. Perhaps out of relief at not suffering another ridiculous defeat at the death, I called the result “barely acceptable but certainly not good.” I maintain Chelsea, United, and Arsenal all would be disappointed to drop points at home against another Top Four club, and City should as well.

City now have played the other three title contenders at home, going 1-1-1 in the three matches. Had they not dumped that home match against Arsenal, I might feel better about this result. Instead, it just feels like they failed to take advantage of their home field and now face the prospect of having to get results against these rivals away from home. Then again, if they keep dropping points against the Wolves and Blackburns of this world, it won’t matter anyway.

I did have to chuckle a bit at the spin coming out of the United camp following this one. Listening to van der Sar, talk, you’d think Mancini had parked the bus in front of goal, bunkering against a 90-minute United onslaught. The reality was that possession, shots, and shots on goal all were pretty much even, with the only real statistical advantage belonging to City in the corner kick department (eight to four). There were periods when City put United under pressure, and vice versa. In the end, it was a stalement.

So with City squandering the golden opportunity to make a statement of intent against a weakened rival, it’s onto a string of Premier League and Europa League fixtures from which one would expect to see a pretty good point haul. Mancini’s men probably will be favored in their next six matches in all competitions. We’ll see if they can stop dropping points unnecessarily, starting with Saturday’s home date with Birmingham City.

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