Huzzah. City’s first ever victory in the Champions League, apart from those other three that didn’t really count. #sarcasm #lolz
That was, quite simply, a good professional European performance. There was a system in place that seemed to suit the players far better than in previous games and as a result there was a raft of improved performances. Aguero was back to his best up front, Nasri filled the hole left by Silva superbly (more on him later), and the defence as a whole coped admirably with a skillful opposition team. Merit is also deserved for Fernandinho, who did his job quietly and efficiently, allowing Yaya Toure the freedom to get forward and thus delayed further pining for Gareth Barry for a few days at least.
And that’s what happens when Yaya Toure ventures forward. Now let him do that every game please.
You don’t just go to European aways and expect to wipe the floor with the opposition, it rarely happens (we’ll ignore Real Madrid last night, ahem). I have watched endless Champions League games down the years, I have seen United at their peak churn out dour 1-0 away wins at average teams (I know, I know I shouldn’t ever watch them, please forgive me), I’ve seen them lose plenty too, and I’ve seen Barcelona at their peak in recent years play poorly away from home time after time after time. It was a good result and a good performance, simple as that. And it could easily have been at least 5-0.
You can argue that the opposition are poor, but then you’ve probably also seen some of Plzen’s recent results in Europe bandied about. A 5-0 aggregate win over Napoli stands out, plus a victory over Atletico Madrid. And they’re double Czech champions. You can only beat what’s in front of you, etc etc.
So that’s five clean sheets on the row for crisis keeper Joe Hart, and City’s “shambolic” defence have only conceded in one game this season. I know there are problems to be addressed in that area, but sometimes a bit of perspective goes a long way.
Which brings us to the main man. Welcome back Vincent, we’ve missed you. Probably best to cut out the sliding tackles in innocuous areas of the pitch in future though. His form last season wasn’t the best (along with all his team-mates), but he showed last night his immense influence on the team, that spreads well beyond making the odd tackle or headed clearance. He also made 51 passes and was successful with all of them.
Some Samir Nasri stats? He made more key passes than anyone else last night (5), and also 3 dribbles. He had the most touches (88) and attempted the most passes (68) with a 91% pass accuracy.
There was still considerable panic and a swarm of naysayers on social media sites and message boards at half-time because City weren’t winning. Thank god for that rule change that made matches 90 minutes eh? I seem to be one of the few City fans that thought the first-half performance was fine. There was obviously a need to step things up after the break, but City did just that having created plenty in the first-half anyway.
Time for the paranoia section. Funny how the City goals and chances were met with not only indifference but at times complete silence from the commentators, yet if Viktoria Plzen ventured within 40 yards of the City goal then the anticipation in the voice of Martin Tyler was tangible. I’ve watched countless Champions League games of other English clubs over the past decade and more (including United – I know, I know) and there has never been such a lack of support from the commentary team. Nor have I ever heard the cost of United’s team compared to the cost of the opposition’s.
Told you I was paranoid. They’re all out to get us.
On the other hand, Graeme Souness is a superb pundit.
The new kit might look like a cigarette packet, but it’s damn nice. I would have preferred however for it to have been unveiled at 3:32am in Singapore.
And finally, a note on priorities. Will the Champions League be Pellegrini’s priority over the Premier League? He has basically said as much, backed up by the team picked for Stoke, which is a shame as City have a much better chance of winning the league than the Champions League (the bookies odds show that) but let’s be honest, either would be magnificent. But here’s a thought – why not just treat both competitions equally seriously?