Apr 30, 2012, 5:51 PM EDT
Man of the Match: Making it an easy day for Joe Hart in goal, either of City’s central defenders would have been chosen for this honor. Vincent Kompany, however, also scored the game-winning goal, heading home a corner kick in first half stoppage time to separate the two rivals. For a man whose leadership has helped City through a number of distractions this season, it was appropriate that Kompany scored what might be the title-deciding goal.
Packaged for takeaway:
- Play-by-play? Here you go.
- The match started strong for United, but true to form, they eventually let the game come to them, sitting back for much of the first half.
- City hadn’t troubled David de Gea much before the goal, but they had been slowly building toward a chance, having won a number of corners. Their final one of the half turned out to be the winner, with David Silva swinging a ball into the middle of the six, Kompany beating Chris Smalling for it.
- The second half saw the tables turned. United held most of the ball but couldn’t generate any real chances on Joe Hart. City, in fact, was more dangerous throughout, Yaya Toure leading a number of dangerous counter attacks. Two shots from Toure mid-way through the half went a combined three feet outside de Gea’s posts.
- When United needed something special to happen, they couldn’t get it from Wayne Rooney - the man the pay to do special things. In the first half, he was going up against Kompany and Joleon Lescott thanks to some big changes to Alex Ferguson’s starting XI. When United made their first move of the second (bringing on Danny Welbeck for Park Ji-Sung), he only had a few minutes to play in a midfield that soon became crowded by the introduction of Nigel de Jong.
- None of Ferguson’s substitutions worked. Welbeck as a non-factor in his half-hour but was still better than Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia, both of whom seemed off the pace. Most perplexing about the moves: Valencia came on for Paul Scholes, meaning with the title on the line, Ferguson had his midfield general on the bench. Tell me why that makes sense.
- Much of the credit for United’s failures has to go to City. Look up-and-down their team sheet, and there are only a couple of players who even had average days (Sergio Aguero and, for lack of work, Hart). Every other player put in and above-average to very good shift, with Lescott, Gareth Barry and Toure reinforcing what proved to be an unbreakable spine. Almost every one of Roberto Mancini’s players performed as the manager would have expected. Ferguson can’t say the same.
- After a controlling display by City, there’s little doubt left who’s England’s best team. This isn’t just about “they won it on the field.” Even coming into this game, City could have been said to be the better side by virtue of having the league’s best attack and defense. The one thing the needed, however, was an exclamation mark, though this result didn’t scream at you as much as it slowly settled around you until you looked up and noticed the world had changed.
- With very few chances on goal, the match may not have lived up to some’s expectations. But it was an undeniably good match. City’s defending was great, and their ability to control the match through its final act eliminated any chance for another United miracle. Perhaps the entertainment was in the nuance, but it was still there.
- Going forward, City’s biggest obstacle will be Newcastle United, but if they get six points from their final two matches, they will be the fifth different champion in Premier League history.
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