Date: 30th November 2008 at 9:25pm
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Oh, blessed relief. Last time we beat Manchester Citeh was one and a half year ago and everyone can agree that his wait was unnaturally long. Today’s richly deserved success healed the wounds of last season.

United weren’t brilliant by any means. We weren’t irresistible in attack, we couldn’t dominate the midfield in the second half and missed way too many chances.

However, on the day we were much the better team as Citeh were abysmal. Boosted by the somewhat unexpected return of Dimitar Berbatov, United had a focus to their game that was so conspicuos by its absence in the last two matches. We were organised and we knew what we wanted to do and executed the plan well.

The first half was all United. Fletcher and Carrick nullified City’s pairing of Ireland and Hamann, Vassell and Benjani did not get a kick next to Vidic and Ferdinand while Robinho was nowhere to be seen. Shaun Wright-Phillips was by far the best City player in the first 45 minutes but he also seemed to lack ideas about how to get past Evra who was back to his imperious best.

The French left-back was bombing along the flanks at will and could have scored after a chance he created for himself with another brilliant run down to the byline. Berbatov played well, too, his glancing header being the first real test for Hart who somehow tipped it round the bar for a corner. He didn’t do that well earlier when he fumbled Rooney’s shot and just about managed to beat it away before the lurking Fletcher could have pounced.

City had only a deflected Ireland effort that whistled just past the post to show in the first 45 minutes so it was no surprise that United took the lead in the closing minutes of the half. It was mostly down to the industriousness of Park who refused to give up possession inside Citeh’s box and managed to flick the ball on to Carrick. The midfielder’s left-footed shot was parried by Hart but into the path of Rooney who was left with a simple tap-in.

It was obvious how much it meant to Rooney. Earlier, he wound up the fans who refused to give him back the ball for a corner by pointing at the golden Premier League logo on his sleeve which serves to show that we are the reigning Champions. It was a brilliant moment – he showed ’em – but it was, of course, slightly more significant when not long thereafter he celebrated his 100th Premier League goal in front of them. And it was an enthusiastic celebration, mind you, his relief was most obvious.

The second half was about containing and trying to do damage on the break. Not a surprising script but it was slightly disappointing that we were so sloppy in counterattacking. We could and should have buried the hosts but too often screwed up that final pass… and we put ourselves at great risk with it, especially with what happened in the 69th minute.

Ronaldo, peripheral all afternoon and looking irritated, rose for a corner and instead of heading the ball into the net he proceeded to punch it away with both hands. As he was on a yellow card this meant a deserved and infuriating dismissal – Ferdinand and Berbatov both protested but they did not really have a case. It was stupid, even if it’s true that he heard a whistle and that’s why he did it. It’s just amateurish.

But it did not matter. City were as uninspiring and labouring as we were at Old Trafford in February and did not really threaten until the closing stages when Fletcher headed a corner onto someone’s back, the ball rebounded, Dunne pounced and Evra had to clear off the line. United got the ball and as Hart came forward for the corner we had a great chance but Giggs, inexplicably, did not try to find the empty net from the halfway line but passed to Rooney who immediately chipped the ball towards goal. His effort was precise and powerful enough but Hart got back just in time to somehow palm it away. Incredible.

It was the last touch of the game and we won, banishing last season’s ghosts. Not a spectacular performance but a reassuringly solid, efficient display. Chelsea lost so it’s game on!