Sunday, February 13, 2011

Manchester derby: Player ratings and recap

On Saturday morning at Old Trafford, Manchester United held off their local rivals 2-1 thanks to a cracking overhead finish from an otherwise off-form Wayne Rooney.

City enjoyed possession and were successful going forward throughout, but the Red side had enough luck with Rooney's unlikely finish to nick all three points.

Manchester United

Van der Sar: 6.5. City were the better offensive side but of their 14 shots, only three were on target.

O'Shea: 6.5. Big John has a penchant for hoofing vertical balls over the top that inevitably become turnovers, but today he was defensively stout.

Smalling: 7.5. Too much was expected of him, but he delivered. Very mature next to Vidic.

Vidic: 8.5. Gobbled up balls everywhere. Imperious in the air, brute and intuitive with interceptions.

Evra: 6.5. Competed well against the stronger Richards, but didn't do much going forward. Inevitably skinned by Wright-Phillips a few times; bailed out by Vidic throughout.

Nani: 7. His maturation has been required this season since Antonio Valencia went out with a long-term leg-break. Today the MJ-lookalike had a great first touch going over-the-top for the goal and finished it smartly enough. Otherwise, he frustratingly careened many shots over the goal after (to his credit) creating enough space to attempt them. A proclivity for poor passing still mars his game, but his emergence into an elite winger this season can't be undervalued.

Fletcher: 7.5. Despite being a slight lad, the Scotsman takes a physical approach to the game and throws his weight around. Anyone playing next to Scholes has to do as much. Who would have thought five years ago that Fletcher could end up being more useful to United over his career than Roy Keane? The former has assumed the same role, to be sure, and may just prove as important. Ironically the tirade which led to Keane leaving the club included rants about Fletcher (and others) but to be fair to both, the Scotsman was a much worse player then.

Scholes: 7. Turned the ball over three times under no pressure, but otherwise his creativity was and is absolutely necessary for United going forward. The little Salford playmaker sprayed balls around willy-nilly today and ticked his side going forward with experience and moxie. No one else on the team can pass and create play like Scholes. His legs have one more season in them, but his heart may not.

Anderson: 6. His speed and athleticism are real virtues. Sadly, his actual footballing ability pales in comparison to those other two attributes so far in his young career.

Giggs: 7. Definitely had some bemusing passes gone wrong today. Also was sometimes cast aside like a child by far more physically robust players in blue.  The Welshman though is the best option on the left side until Valencia returns. Whether that's a credit to him or an indictment of United's depth is a fair debate. Giggs' experience helped as the game wore down Saturday.

Rooney: 7.5. Failed to do much from open play. Always eager to put the ball on his right foot whenever he shoots, and therefore doesn't get many clean strikes off. He was definitely up for the game, though, and showed good engine throughout. You see lesser players score similar highlight-reel goals every week, but Rooney's cracking overhead finish not only won the derby but also likely ended their most-storied rivals' hopes of the league altogether. Context is important. Rooney hasn't had two good games on the trot all season—we'll have to wait for the Red's next match to see if that trend continues.

Manchester City

Hart: 6. Could have conceivably saved Nani's first effort, alas. Rooney's goal was unstoppable. United had only three other shots on target and they were tame.

Zabaleta: 5.5. Destined to be sold and replaced.

Lescott: 7. Strong and athletic.

Kompany: 7.5. Stronger, more athletic. The nucleus of City's backline and a good footballer.

Richards: 7.5. Even stronger, even more athletic. Caused a lot of problems for United's left side.

Barry: 7. Very involved throughout as City generally outpassed their rivals in the center of the pitch. His disinclination to attempt anything outlandish can be a blessing or a curse.

Milner: 6.5. Slightly muted display, but direct, quick and strong enough to still show up in spurts.

Toure: 8. Uses his body very well to shield the ball. Uses both feet to dribble and pass. Puts emphasis and care on the shape of his passes. Plays simple one-timers with ease to create triangles around his opponents. Classy.

Silva: 7.5. Nicknamed "Quicksilva", supposedly, but I don't think he's that quick. He's got a great left foot, dribbles well, and was sure to be influential throughout the first sixty minutes. Later it looked like he tired out somewhat. He didn't know much about the goal; claimed it though, and technically deserved it.

Kolarov: 5: Largely ineffective.

Tevez: 5.5: Ran around a lot but was rarely dangerous.

I'd have to say City were the better side, but United were the better finishers. Follow me on twitter if you're really, really bored.

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