United 3 City 1

An expected result perhaps, but not really a performance that many of us predicted. I anticipated a cautious set up from Stuart Pearce designed to stifle United, and relying on our defence to help shut out United in order to take something from the game.

However, when it goes wrong for our defence it goes very wrong indeed. Christmas came early at Old Trafford this year as messrs. Dunne and Distin combined in a big way to help gift wrap three goals and leave them under the tree for United's forwards to ensure they took all the points.

It was a shame as Dunne and Distin have been outstanding this season and it was an attacking performance that more than matched what United had to offer. Pearce surprised me by keeping faith with the side that drew at home to Watford the previous Monday rather than opting for a 4-5-1 formation, but no formation could do anything about the first goal after just five minutes.

A cross from Ronaldo resulted in an air shot from Distin, but unfortunately he got a decisive enough touch on it to take it out of Dunne's path straight to the grateful Rooney to slot home. Still, this seemed to galvanise a City side who decided to take the mantle to United rather than lie down like the majority of sides who visit Old Trafford.

We were grateful though for a poor first touch from Rooney when he was well set to put United 2-0 ahead, but we had some good chances through Richards (should we have had a penalty for Ferdinand's high foot?) and a good effort from Samaras. Time and again we had plenty of space going forward, but lacked the final bit of quality to pierce the United defence.

Heading in 1-0 down would have set us up for a good tilt at them after the break, but Trabelsi made a mess when he should have cleared then sold Dunne short with a backpass, leaving Heinze to cross for Saha to make it 2-0 at the break and leaving Nicky Weaver unable to return for the second half, being replaced by Isaksson for his City debut.

Again, we had chances in the second half with substitute Stephen Ireland (who replaced the 'ineffectual' Reyna) forcing a smart save from van der Saar, before Trabelsi atoned for his first half mistake by smashing home from just inside the box.

The scene was set for a final go at a United side - who in a bold move replaced Saha with O'Shea, but a mistake by Dunne in attempting to control a cross only served to tee up Ronaldo to seal the win.

As time was running out, Bernardo Corradi - in my opinion more in desperation than an outright attempt at cheating, fell to the ground and was yellow-carded for the second time and was sent off, a move which saw him criticised by Pearce in his post-match interview.

Concensus from both City and United fans I know tends to be that we gave them a good game, and did genuinely trouble them for large parts of the game, but you cannot expect to get anything when you gift goals that even FC United would have gleefully snapped up.

Plus points for me was the performances of Micah Richards and Andreas Isaksson, and I would hope that Isaksson gets a run at the number 1 spot as Weaver is still to fully convince me he is the long-term answer, whilst Richards needs to be moved into midfield to fully utilise his undoubted talent. A surprise also was the performance of Darius Vassell on the left. Although he has struggled at times out there, he gave Gary Neville trouble throughout the first-half before being switched to a more central role as the game wore on.

DeMarcus Beasley looks like he could be an asset coming off the bench late in a game, whilst Stephen Ireland showed enough to warrant a spell in the starting line-up, but Samaras and Reyna again struggled to impose themselves on the game.

It is ultimately disappointing though as we took nothing from a game where we had enough possession, territory and chances to get something from it. We now face a tricky spell of games against sides that typically we haven't fared well against and we can do without a poor run in terms of a return in points.

Although, I can't see that we will be in any relegation trouble it is vital we avoid getting sucked in at the bottom as once you did get dragged down there it is notoriously difficult to get out.

Match reports:
The Times
The Guardian
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