I’m Cartoon Vampire and I’ll be describing today’s action live from the Theatre of Dreams.
We’re only 8 games into the Premier League season and although Sky Sports are unusually shy about saying it, I have no such reservations – this is a title decider. Make no mistake about it, my son, it’s about whoever wants it more, whoever turns up on the day, plays a game of two halves and other such meaningless verbal tripe. There’s no room for error for the defending champions because if they lose today, they’ll fall 5 points behind their noisy neighbours and need to earn a whopping 0.17 of a point extra per game for the remaining 29 fixtures of the season and that is basically impossible. If you’ve an edge on your seat, I’d position myself firmly on it for the duration of this early afternoon’s proceedings.
After his peculiar team selection for last week’s game against Liverpool at the Theatre of Questionable Allegations, Sir Alex Ferguson names a more orthodox selection. Nemanja Vidic is restored to the centre of defence alongside Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein who starts at right-back. He doesn’t want to make it too difficult for Man City, so he also lets Rio Ferdinand keep his place. After being spared 80 minutes of chants about the Auld Slapper at Anfield, Wayne Rooney starts meaning Javier Hernandez is on the bench and Dimitar Berbatov can have yet another lie-in.
During the week Roberto Mancini’s decision to substitute the perfectly fit Adam Johnson before half time went about as well as my reference to Modern Orthodox Judaism, but he’s given the winger a vote of confidence by starting him for the Manchester Derby. To the surprise of anyone who only watched the first couple of games of the season, but to the expectation of everyone else, Edin Dzeko doesn’t start. Walking Sectioning Under The Mental Health Act, Mario Balotelli gets the chance to continue his mixture of good recent form and antagonism of opposition fans as he starts up front for City.
1 mins: After a minute’s silence in honour of Betty’s hotpot, the game gets underway.
4 mins: The hosts make a strong start and win a corner. It’s a perfect delivery and the ball falls to Rio Ferdinand six yards out with just Joe Hart to beat, but he doesn’t realise as he’s too busy getting virtual fellatio on twitter from his army of sycophants. You’re going to have to do much better than that Rio – both in terms of your football and your grammar.
6 mins: United’s speed and movement is causing real problems for City. Nigel De Jong can’t even get close enough to Nani to execute his trademark Hurricane Kick.
7 mins: Ashley Young is causing all sorts of trouble for the City defence. He tells Gael Clichy “you know, I completely disagree with what Micah Richards was saying about you. I actually think you’re quite nice.”
“What did he say?” asks Clichy.
“Oh, you didn’t hear? Don’t worry about it. It was probably a mix-up in translation … from English to English.”
Crafty work from the winger.
11 mins: Joe Hart’s been busier than Carlos Tevez’s agent after a hissy fit. This time he gets in the way of a Darren Fletcher exocet that looked set to nestle in the back of the Ship Canal. No danger of a goal, but an impressive stop nonetheless.
19 mins: WHAT A TREMENDOUS SAVE FROM HART!
Roberto Mancini confronts the keeper and his room-mate, Gareth Barry about their whereabouts last night.
“I called to your room after the 11pm curfew and there was no answer.”
“Em … that’s because we had headphones on. We were watching clips of you in your playing days on the laptop and we didn’t want to disturb anyone. Man, you were brilliant.”
Excellent reactions from Hart to cover up the pair’s late night sortie to see a midnight screening of Johnny English 2. It’s a good move, because revelations of extra-circular behaviour that disturbing could spell the end of a player’s career in England.
27 mins: It’s not good for City and already Mancini has ordered his subs to start warming up. Adam Johnson gulps nervously.
28 mins: The 4th official’s board goes up and yep, it’s Johnson – who has flopped yet again by not getting a hat-trick inside the first quarter of the game – being called ashore. He’s making way for a mannequin, a la Kim Cattrall in the 80s film of the same name.
31 mins: Our touchline reporter, Jeff McFondle tells me the mannequins only comes to life when there’s no-one around. Not entirely dissimilar to Johnson so.
36 mins: Oh Mancini can insist that he didn’t intend to humiliate Johnson, but this is too much. He’s got him in a furry dolphin costume handing out leaflets for the local aquarium. You’d have to wonder if that’s the best use of the talent at his disposal.
41 mins: It’s not been a good few minutes for the mannequin. He’s given the ball away five times and looks very immobile. It’s not all bad however because as he’s English-made, he’s still on course for a 7/10 rating in The Sun and likely to be the subject of a £25 million bid from Liverpool.
HALF TIME: It’s scoreless at half-time, but the possession and territory stats look about as good for City as their balance sheet. To them, the United penalty area seems to be a semi-mystical concept they have little chance of ever finding along the lines of Atlantis. Atlantis is often spoken as a strange land full of strange looking creatures with webbed hands and strange rituals, which ironically isn’t too dissimilar to the Stretford End.
46 mins: He’s never afraid to make changes and Fergie has no choice but to admit the selection of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein was a mistake. Although he didn’t pay £7 million for him so already it’s more successful than Bebe. He withdraws the Jewish academic and Patrice Evra comes on in his place.
52 mins: Phil Jones has been spoken about as ‘the New Beckenbauer’ and he lives up to that title by over-confidently predicting Bayern Munich will win this season’s Champions League.
61 mins: GOAL! 1-0 to United. After dominating affairs, United finally get their reward. It’s Giggs with the goal. With the balance he’s perfected from sneaking out the window of his brother’s bedroom window, he slaloms his way through the City defence and slot… em … places it home. Excellent penetrat… … play from the former Welshman.
62 mins: OH WAIT! High drama here. The goal has been disallowed! There’s no offside, foul or infringement in the build-up to the goal, but referee Mark Clattenburg doesn’t like the way his hair looks in the replays so it won’t stand. After a quick application of mousse, the game resumes.
65 mins: Spurred on by the lingering sense of injustice, United press hard, but it’s all to no avail. This must be how Arsene Wenger feels every day of his life.
70 mins: Finally, City come to the party. And not in the ‘bottle of vodka and his wife’s diet pills’ Kolo Toure would probably like. David Silva does well to get to the by-line and plays it to Balotelli who’s unmarked on the penalty spot. Sadly, he’s curled up in a ball pretending to be a hedgehog so the chance goes a begging. That’s the price you pay for someone with such mercurial genius.
72 mins: More pressure from City. This time Sergio Aguero picks up the ball, makes a darting run forward and unleashes a testing shot at David De Gea i.e. one that’s tame and straight at him. It might of worked at the start of the season, but the De Gea of a couple of weeks ago is a million miles away from the De Gea of today. Apparently.
79 mins: GOAL 1-0 United! REALLY THIS TIME! It’s a cracker from Nani. The Portuguese winger does a yawn-inducing amount of stepovers and just as the City defence start to fall asleep, he cuts inside onto his left foot and curls a shot into the top corner. Clattenburg has a quick look at the replay, declares his hair looks “sexy-tastic – ding dang do” and the goal will be allowed to stand.
80 mins: It’s last chance saloon time for Roberto Mancini and he eschews his natural conservative instincts, throwing caution to the wind by changing his team from a 4-3-3-0 formation to a reckless 4-2-3-1 formation. Hold on to your hats.
84 mins: Oh no – this will do little for his reputation as a dodgy keeper. David De Gea lays a blanket out in his goalmouth and places a range of fake designer sunglasses, handbags and watches out. I don’t want to jump on the ‘needlessly bashing him bandwagon’, but I’m sorry, Rotex isn’t a brand of luxury Swiss watch I’m familiar with.
86 mins: With the abundance of attacking talent on the pitch now allowed to attack, City forge some good chances. Aguero sets up Balotelli for another gilt-edged chance, but this time the Italian is sitting by the corner flag making a daisy chain. Don’t worry, he’s about to explode into life.
90 mins: It’s the end of normal time. Sir Alex Ferguson raises his board to indicate there’s a maximum of 30 seconds of stoppage time to be played. As Clattenburg fears for his curls, he goes along with it.
90 + 30 seconds: GOAL 1-1! CITY EQUALISE. I told you this was coming. After a heated discussion with a young fan about the existence of Santa Claus, Mario Balotelli is about to run back to the dressing room. As he runs however, the ball falls to him. He beats seven players, flicks the ball up for himself and smashes a bicycle kick into the top corner beyond the despairing standing still of De Gea.
FULL TIME: That’s it. The ref blows his whistle and it ends in a stalemate. The pointless bragging rights that everyone forgets about after Monday anyway will have to be shared. Despite the fact he signalled the added time, Fergie bashes himself for injury time being “about 29 seconds too long.” Roberto Mancini looks happy with a point and heads down the tunnel asking Joe Hart “so what was your favourite bit of my ridiculously good skills?”
– Man Utd v Man City Betting