The double standards and rank hypocrisy surrounding coverage of the two sides of Manchester was, once again, stripped bare for all to see after wins for City and United.
United went to their happiest of Premier League hunting grounds – Villa Park – to record a totally expected, almost mandatory, 3-2 win after a spineless capitulation by the home team.
City beat a supposedly high quality Tottenham team, with their fourth come-from-behind PL win this season, albeit thoroughly deserved with overwhelming possession stats and twice as many attempts on goal as the Londoners.
Both victories were achieved on the back of goals from substitutes – Javi Hernandez and Edin Dzeko. But here the similarity ends.
According to Sky Sports News and the print media it was typical never say die United, Fergie’s a tactical genius and hail Hernandez as they overhauled a 2-0 deficit as Villa turned to jelly in an insipid showing.
But, when it came to City completely overrunning Spurs, reversing Steven Caulker’s 21st minute header thanks to Roberto Mancini’s sublime second half substitutions and a cracking 88thminute winner it was ‘Dzeko rescues City’.
Rescues? The Oxford Dictionary definition of ‘rescue’ reads ‘…deliver from danger, remove from distress…’ the inference being that City needed saving, that they were somehow fortunate and undeserving of the win.
It’s a subtlety by the football scribes but one, I would suggest, is a deliberate attempt to promote a positive portrayal of United and weave a web of negativity around anything to do with City.
The fact is City – not for the first time this season – came up against a referee who exuded incompetency to the point where it bordered on blatant anti-MCFC bias.
Michael Oliver’s performance was astounding to everyone bar those with a Spurs connection. It was incomprehensible as he denied City two definite penalties in the first half – a William Gallas handball and Tom Huddlestone’s GBH assault on Pablo Zabaleta.
He was subsequently suckered by the abomination called Adebayor, complete with his detestable dying swan dives. No wonder a passionate Pablo Zabaleta became exasperated at his cheating ex-colleague.
It beggared belief, and yet The Times took it upon itself to focus on how Oliver could – and should – have issued six yellow cards to City players for dissent, as if Mancini’s team should have been grateful.
No mention of the travesties being foisted upon the champions in their own backyard – for the second time in six days after the horror showing of dippy Danish referee Peter Rasmussen in the Champions League farce with Ajax.
It’s not being precious for City to demand a basic level of competency and fairness from referees. All City want is an official who is capable and willing to doing his job with the impartiality demanded in the job description.
It’s worth noting that Oliver wore a very nice shade of red – how appropriate.
In a more positive vein the 2-1 win came complete with a sumptuous Silva lining as ‘David The Magician’ was restored after a five match injury induced absence – and what a difference he made.
The little Gran Canarian’s left foot conducted City’s symphony as he picked passes and undermined the Spurs rearguard. Oh how the Sky Blues have missed their midfield maestro.
While this was not vintage City, it was certainly on the right track by the time the twisted Oliver blew the final whistle in the 96th minute – another erratic element of his ‘performance.
City’s backline had once again been breached from a deadball situation as Caulker muscled his way through the zoned out zonal marking and powered a header past a fumbling Joe Hart.
Thereafter it was City all the way but ultimately Mancini’s tactical savvy won the day. Labelled as over cautious in his formative period in English football, the Italian has emerged as a courageous commander never afraid to re-align his battle strategy.
The introduction of Maicon for the blossoming Nastasic facilitated a switch to a three-man back line and unleashed the Brazilian veteran for a series of rapier like strikes down the Spurs flank.
Spurs fans had greeted his introduction with howls of laughter and derision, recalling his darkest hour when, as an Inter Milan wing back, he was ripped apart by Gareth Bale during the Lillywhites Champions League odyssey in 2010.
They weren’t laughing at the end after Maicon’s attacking prowess had pinned his former foe deep into Tottenham territory, nullifying the threat of the Welsh wonder.
Maicon’s bombing raids opened up space for Silva who contributed to the fortuitous upfield foray in the 65thminute. Kyle Walker diverted Silva’s pass to Yaya Toure who released Sergio Aguero whose beautifully angled shot eluded Brad Friedel.
Mancini launched the SS Dzeko (SuperSub) seven minutes later.
With 120 seconds of regulation time left, the amiable Dzeko sailed through the Spurs defence, starting and finishing a slick interchange with Silva, before powering a glorious half volley through Friedel’s arm and high into the net.
Scoring at the rate of a goal-an-hour in the PL, Dzeko has proven himself a match-winner from the bench with six of his magnificent seven strikes coming in the sub’s role.
To Dzeko the glory, but the Man of the Match award went to Gael Clichy after a hugely industrious display in a win which could prove pivotal in the title race.