Analysis and Observations: Smalling rises to the occasion

Manchester Utd 2-1 Manchester City: Observations and Analysis

“I think it’s the best goal I’ve ever scored, I saw it coming over and I thought, why not? I was just delighted to see it go in the net and get the three points. Nine times out of 10 they go into the stand… it’s the first overhead kick I’ve scored since turning professional.” Wayne Rooney

In an interview in Friday’s edition of Sport magazine, Ryan Giggs spoke of how a moment of “individual brilliance” would probably decide the outcome of the Manchester Derby. You could only imagine that Giggs had with him that day a crystal ball. Wayne Rooney, sensing the occasion, the importance of such a fixture, had sent the Old Trafford faithful into delirium with an astonishing acrobatic finish. Words don’t quite do it justice, though.

Incredible more so because Rooney, a player in something of a confidence crisis, had endured much hard luck at the hands of City’s defenders. Up front alone, he was as isolated as an American in the Twenties. Still, there is no surprise that ten of his last eleven goals for the club have been scored at Old Trafford.

Smalling takes centre stage. On a day, when rightly so, Wayne Rooney would grab all the headlines for his one moment of brilliance, it was Chris Smalling who played, perhaps, his best game in a United shirt. In the absence of Rio Ferdinand, Smalling seized his opportunity and looked relatively unfazed with the prospect of playing in a Derby. Smalling has exceeded expectations in his first season; the reason for that is he found some luck at others expense. Ferdinand has missed games to injuries and Evans has seen a decline in form. But he’s made much use of his team mates misfortunes and thrived in such an occasion.

His parter, Nemanja Vidic, had somewhat of a mixed-game – at times, the Serb was sloppy; his distribution from the back was not at all spectacular but overall he was solid. Both were helpless to City’s equaliser – a lucky deflection off Silva’s back threatened to take away from Smalling’s performance.

Nani shows no mercy to Zabaleta. Pablo Zabaleta, out of position, could have hardly envisaged this. Nani showed little mercy, if any, for the Argentine and prospered down the right flank without any trouble. A goal, and an assist; just another day at the office. His goal was the result of a rapid one-touch move that ended with a lovely finish by the winger – accompanied by an expert first touch. Nani has now scored or assisted 20 goals for Manchester United in his last 20 Premier League appearances – such impact he’s had in a season where United fans witness some sort of consistency that they’d never quite have believed a year ago.

United had Kompany (pardon the awful pun). While City’s title hopes look all but over, they could at least take something out a game where they didn’t play all that bad from Vincent Kompany’s performance at the back. He, and Micah Richards, were excellent. United’s midfield, bar Nani, had struggled for large parts and so Rooney, was isolated and left frustrated at the lack of service. Kompany, emerging an outside candidate for best defender of the season, was consistently good and like Smalling, didn’t put a foot wrong.

The report card. Playing the role of the teacher, I’ll attempt to grade United’s players on their performance. Obviously some of the ‘grades’ will be argued against – but it would be appreciated if you gave feedback on the not-so-tried-and-tested system:

van der Sar C, Evra C, Chris Smalling A, Nemanja Vidic C, John O’Shea C, Anderson D, Ryan Giggs B-, Nani A, Paul Scholes B+, Darren Fletcher C, Wayne Rooney D.

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8 responses to “Analysis and Observations: Smalling rises to the occasion”

  1. Jason Freeman says :

    Agree about Kompany although perhaps allowed Rooney the space to score that winner… apparently it was a slip from him though, gotta love the groundstaff at OT for making that box slippery.

  2. timbo says :

    Nice to see that someone didn’t buy into the Rooney goal as a way of letting him off for what overall was a pretty poor performance – even the goal was lucky, as it came off an over-kicked cross from nani that took a deflection on its way to Rooney.

    Funny how the Rooney goal is considered genius and is being raved about – Berba scored a similar effort earlier in the season, but I don’t recall people lauding it as arguably the greatest goal ever scored for United.

    • The Gaffer says :

      Thanks for the comment Timbo. Yes, think there is a certain overreaction to Rooney’s goal — won’t take anything away from the goal, but it is questionable how people could conclude things from a goal and a goal only. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know how I’ve raved about the man — saying, while his goal tally is a concern, he hasn’t played all that bad. It’s just a shame that people are concluding things from an acrobatic finish rather than his performances this campaign.

  3. kel says :

    Nani was excellent. The way he skip pass at easy and with our players struggling to match the game in the first half, Nani for one was playing with ease. He makes me think that something will happen and he can produce that magic and boom, he scores a goal with such a wonderful 3 touch. Giggs plays well after a few miss pass in the first half. Rooney had a bad game but he score a outrageous goal which prompted me to scream out “what a goal!!” Defence was tight as usual but the midfield is the one we need some fix on. Silva had that magical pass and touch that could produce creativity for us. But we need strong midfielders that can carry and win us game.

  4. Edward Godwin Eddy says :

    Smalling performed very well yesterday,he is a player for the feature. You made no comment about O’shea,he too played very well yesterday In fact,this is one of the best game i saw him played. In your score card, i thinck O’Shea,and V.D.S deserted B+.

  5. The Gaffer says :

    Thanks for the comments:

    Kel: Agreed with the comment — it reminds me that I should have also mentioned something about Ryan Giggs and Silva — both of whom were excellent in their own way. Giggs faded in and out, but while United struggled in the first half hour, he was one of the few who looked half-decent, of course, it was Giggs who had set up Nani’s goal.

    Edward Godwin Eddy: The C grade is equivalent to 6/10, say. Thought O’Shea wa solid, but nothing to really rave about. He is more assured and reliable than Rafael at the back, I would say.

  6. Doron says :

    If “C” is level par then I don’t think I’d have put anyone below it. Anderson wasn’t at his best but he was given a very specific role – to hassle and harry the deepest City players – which he did well. Typically it was his work off the ball that went unnoticed. I’d have also bumped Rooney up to a C just for that goal.

    Can’t argue against Edwin or Evra – the former had little to do and generally did it well. Certainly O’Shea was better than level par – despite some wayward passing from him he did his defensive job well.

    Fletcher was the pick of our midfielders for me. Scholes wasn’t at his best; he was overshadowed by Mr Silva and was more wayward than usual. I thought Fletcher did everything well, we was everywhere, winning the ball, passing it about well, it was a tireless performance from him.

    I was surprised by Fergie choosing to praise Giggs. Yes he did beat men often but I thought he looked tired and generally wasn’t that effective. I was amazed he played the full 90, after 70 minutes he was struggling to track back (in the second half he was playing just yards in front of where I was sitting and you could see him panting heavily).

    On the balance of the game I think we were lucky to get the win when a draw probably would have been fair. What Giggs said on Friday is brilliant! How did he know!? :p

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