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Manchester City vs. Manchester United: 10 Things We Learned in FA Cup Classic

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2012

Manchester City vs. Manchester United: 10 Things We Learned in FA Cup Classic

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    Manchester City and Manchester United served up a real humdinger of an FA Cup third-round match at the Etihad Stadium, providing us with plenty of newsworthy mentions. Here are 10 of the most notable things from the game.

    United went ahead early on through Wayne Rooney's header before Vincent Kompany was sent off, leaving City to play with 10 men for 80 minutes.

    Danny Welbeck added a second with a cracking volley before Rooney missed a penalty—but converted the rebound to give the away side a 3-0 lead at half time.

    City fought back brilliantly in the second period through goals from Aleksander Kolarov and Sergio Aguero, and could even have snatched a draw late on, but United held on to go through to the fourth round.

Manchester City: Real Desire and Team Spirit Shown in Second Half

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    Manchester City were bossing the game against their rivals Manchester United during the first 10 minutes and certainly looked the more likely side to open the scoring.

    It didn't happen, though, and they found themselves a man and three goals down at the break.

    With the FA Cup lower on their season priorities than the Premier League, they could have come out for the second period without any intention of fighting their corner, but City grabbed an early goal through Alex Kolarov and really tested United as they sought to get back into the game.

    The ovation given to the team by their fans at the end of the game, despite having been knocked out of the cup they themselves hold by their local rivals, says everything about the commendable desire City showed to get themselves back into the match.

Manchester United: Fuming Alex Ferguson Right to Be Incensed with His Team

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    Manchester United led Manchester City 3-0 at the break and had a man advantage after Vincent Kompany's red card, but Alex Ferguson's side were unable to close out the game without offering City heart and hope, as the game finished 3-2.

    After the game, Ferguson was decidedly upset with his troops for "thinking the game was won" and allowing City back into it.

    He even went as far as to say that his team would gain no real advantage from the victory over the Premier League leaders, so poor was their performance in the second half.

    At the end of the day, Ferguson will want his chargers to be fighting for that first place come the end of the season, so if criticising them after a victory is the way he focuses their collective minds on doing the job properly next time, then he has every right to do so.

    Next time, otherwise, the opposition might even get that third goal.

Manchester City: Vincent Kompany's Red Card to Be Appealed...but Not Rescinded

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    Following the culmination of the FA Cup match at the Etihad Stadium, Roberto Mancini confirmed that Manchester City would be appealing the red card given to Vincent Kompany during the first half against Manchester United.

    City's appeal is likely to be almost a forced decision as, with one red card already to his name this season, Kompany could well be given a four-game ban instead of merely a three-match one.

    As such, the City captain would miss two league matches against Wigan and Spurs as well as the League Cup semifinal double-header against Liverpool.

    With Kolo Toure away on International duty for the African Cup of Nations, City will have just two recognised central defenders at their disposal—Joleon Lescott and Stefan Savic (who is largely untried this season, having made just one start in the top flight so far).

    However, should the FA continue along their usual path of siding with referees in all but the most obvious cases of mistaken identity or wrongful decisions, the ban will stand—rendering Kompany sidelined.

Manchester United: Real Goalkeeping Issues Remain for United to Solve

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    Anders Lindegaard was given the nod in goal for Manchester United against Manchester City in the FA Cup third round, but question marks remain over Alex Ferguson's goalkeeping selections.

    While David de Gea made a string of errors against Blackburn Rovers a couple of weeks ago, Lindegaard has arguably looked equally shaky in his last two matches.

    Several of his attempted catches and punches against City were nervous-looking to say the least, while more than a couple of kicked clearances were wayward, one of which almost gave James Milner a shooting chance at an empty net.

    Lindegaard has made 11 appearances this term to de Gea's 21 (in all competitions), but neither have really laid claim to being the undisputed No. 1.

    Until one of them does, you feel United will continue to struggle to be as unbeatable as they would like to be.

Manchester City: Current FA Cup Holders Knocked out at the First Time of Asking

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    Last May, Manchester City claimed their first trophy in more than 30 years when they won the FA Cup at Wembley.

    This season, it has taken them just a single game to lose their grip on the trophy and be knocked out—by their local rivals Manchester United, of all teams.

    City's brave resistance and attempted comeback in the second half was all well and good—but at the end of the day, the FA Cup is a knockout tournament.

    And City are out.

Manchester United: Paul Scholes Recalled from Retirement but Do United Need Him?

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    Manchester United sprung a surprise in their FA Cup squad selection by naming previously retired midfielder Paul Scholes among the substitutes after Alex Ferguson had persuaded him to play on for the second half of this season.

    Scholes got his introduction early in the second half as United led 3-1, but within five minutes of coming on, Scholes had given the ball away, which led to City's second goal and a nervy last half hour of the match for United.

    Clearly Scholes won't have lost his passing ability in the eight months since he last played competitive football, but at 37 years of age, has the chance to make himself a valuable member of the squad gone?

    He will suffer in training trying to get his fitness levels back up, that is for sure.

    Whether he can add the composure and creativity in midfield, even if from the bench, that United have missed this season remains to be seen—if he can't, expect Ferguson to be criticised as desperate and out of ideas, or money, or both.

Manchester City vs. Manchester United: Refereeing Decisions Change Games Again

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    The FA Cup third-round derby clash between Manchester United and Manchester City was a magnificent spectacle all around, but plenty of watchers and pundits will point to the decision-making of referee Chris Foy as being pivotal—yet again.

    After less than a quarter of an hour, Foy ruled that Vincent Kompany's challenge on Nani was worthy of a red card, and he sent off the Manchester City captain.

    The tackle was mostly along the ground, it was with legs spread wide apart, the studs were showing and both legs were extended. Kompany also cleanly won the ball from Nani.

    Was it worthy of a red card?

    Viewers of the game have been somewhat split, but the man in the middle said yes, and City played 80 minutes with a man less.

    At the time, although they were one goal behind, they had been the more positive and adventurous side, but the sending-off forced them into a complete reshuffle.

    Roberto Mancini was obviously upset with the decision, but as close as his team went to pulling the game back to level terms, we'll never know if United would have gone on and seen out the game from one goal ahead had the referee only showed a yellow instead of a straight red.

Manchester United: Wayne Rooney in Fine Goal-Scoring Form Again

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    Manchester United's halftime lead was thanks in no small part to a headed brace from Wayne Rooney.

    A sublime header into the top corner for the opening goal and a converted rebound from his own saved penalty for the third, Rooney took his tally for the season to 17—not bad, considering he has played part of the campaign in midfield and had a dry patch only a month or two ago.

    Rooney also made a point of showing his solidarity with the team with his celebrations and post-match interview, intimating that he would be at United for a long time to come.

Manchester City: Micah Richards and Sergio Aguero Have Ability to Win Titles

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    Manchester City's vast squad has match-winners all the way through it, from Joe Hart making saves at one end to Yaya Toure capable of doing everything in the middle of the pitch and David Silva making all the creative playing at the top end of the pitch.

    But two other players who have had stunning season until now, and who shone against Manchester United despite the FA Cup defeat, were Sergio Aguero and Micah Richards.

    Richards had a good game at right-back and was largely untroubled by Nani (unlike Aleksander Kolarov on the opposite flank against Antonio Valencia), and after moving to part of a three-man defence in the second half, Richards was a pillar of strength in the back and a constant menace on the break with his pace and power.

    Richards is having a top season and looks back to his previous best of a couple of seasons ago, and even beyond that.

    Up front, Sergio Aguero had the thankless task of running the line on his own after Vincent Kompany was sent off, but he held the ball up well, worked his socks off and never let the Manchester United defenders have time in possession.

    He scored a goal from close range, but his initial shot was more impressive, hit first time after a drilled cross spun up off the turf.

    Aguero was always a danger and is having a magnificent debut campaign in England—his goals and performances can lead City to the Premier League title.

Manchester United: Onwards in the Cup, Can They Follow Suit in the League?

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    After all the excitement, goals, cards and incidents in the FA Cup third-round match, the only real outcome is that Manchester United have progressed into the fourth round.

    Of more immediate importance to Alex Ferguson will be getting his team back to winning ways for the remainder of a tricky-looking month for United, who have lost their last two Premier League matches.

    Next up is Bolton Wanderers at home—in the relegation zone at the moment but with two wins and one draw from their last four league matches.

    In addition, Bolton have been much better away from home this season, winning four out of 10 games.

    After that, the Red Devils face a trip to the Emirates to play Arsenal before hosting Stoke City at home.

    Ferguson will want his squad at their maximum levels of concentration and physical ability to ensure they do not drop further behind Manchester City, whom they currently trail by three points.

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