Man City showed us two ways they could score goals. A clever set piece and an open field piledriver which David De Gea could have stopped.
United showed a dozen ways. The equalizer was initiated by Tom Cleverly and what ensued was an intricate web of passes with preternatural positioning involving Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney, and Nani as they wove their way around a tightly packed City defense. The Portugese finally burst away and running left finished with a delectable chip over Joe Hart as United stamped its authority in the second half.
Sir Alex has an uncanny way of introducing the right substitution and this time it was Tom Cleverley as the game resumed in the second half. He was in the thick of things as Rooney took a step back and scoured the field for an outlet. Say what you will about Rooney behind that thuggish facade lies an acute footballing brain. He will be a force even as his scoring takes a step back. Another reason Utd look good for their 20th Premier League title is their deep bench strength. They will be in fine shape when the ides of March come knocking as their rivals tot up the injury count.
All three new signings were on display and Ashley Young was his usual energetic self with a hand in the first goal with his floated free kick which found Chris Smalling open and willing to put his boot. David De Gea after that mistake recovered to make some nice saves getting his hand on an Adam Johnson blast and then tipping Dzeko's effort. Phil Jones looked solid although City sputtering badly in the second half was really no test.
Which brings us to City. Edin Dzeko looked disconnected up front as the midfield wore a gaping hole. Yaya Toure did his best forcing the pace down the middle but he's not really a creative force. David Silva, clever little player that he is, finds more usefulness down the wing. United move their players almost rugby like in a line upfield so when they come to the box there are at least five players who can recycle the attack as they showed with the Nani goal.
Here is another problem for City apart from the imbalanced midfield. With the match tied 2-2, Roberto Mancini brings in Gareth Barry for Mario Balotelli. Really? You would think with over half an hour left to play the first thing on his mind would be to reclaim the lead. Instead he was thinking of penalties. His other two substitutions were Adam Johnson and Gael Clichy. The former has some fine attacking instincts but he's not a goalscorer. This would have been an ideal time to throw in Sergio Aguero. Everyone was waiting for that one but it never happened. City will be in fine position come May but Mancini's inability to go for the jugular will factor in them falling short.
It was all set up for a classic finish. Misery needs company. And so it was as Vincent Kompany made a hash of stopping Nani who went barreling forward one on one with Joe Hart, neatly side stepped the City goalie, and swiped the ball with his left foot for the perfect comeback. The scoreline reads 3-2 but it really does not tell the story of Utd's utter domination. Every pundit talks about this season as the closest in years but really it won't be.