At half-time in the Carling Cup semi-final, Manchester United will be rueing a missed opportunity for their side. Not in terms of missing out on the talents of Carlos Tevez, but in that the game was there to be won and their side let them down. Ferguson showed due respect to the competition and to City by putting out his strongest possible team but even this turned out to be in vain as they failed to deliver the performance he had hoped for.
The reason United fans will be disappointed is that for much of the first half, United were in complete control but failed to turn their dominance into goals. City started poorly and still appeared to be feeling the effects of the defeat to Everton. They sat too deep and allowed United to have possession; yet despite this, the United players did not press forward as they should have done. Anderson in particular is a player that should have taken advantage of the situation; he could have received the ball and driven into the heart of City’s defence. Instead, United seemed content to pass the ball sideways and wait; they only really created one opportunity in the first half and were fortunate to score from it.
They paid the price for their caution and City grew into the game and inspired by Tevez they began to exploit the defensive frailties in United’s game. It was only in the last 15 minutes that United began to show some real urgency and began to do what they should have been doing from the beginning. They pushed forward and Rooney and Evra in particular looked dangerous in the last few minutes. Had they shown this level of intent earlier on in the game, United would have defeated a City side that started lethargically.
It was perhaps a measure of the fragile confidence at United that they were not comfortable attacking City in the first half for fear of being hit on the break. But this is quite unlike a Ferguson side; they played well in the first half without looking too dangerous and even though there were clear weaknesses in the City defence, they failed to take advantage. Javier Garrido was struggling to deal with Valencia and yet the Ecuadorian was not found often enough; the youngster Boyata looked nervous and yet the United attackers did not look to isolate him and take advantage.
Though they will feel confident about defeating City at Old Trafford, if they do not; United fans will be left feeling very frustrated as this match was there for the taking and their side lacked the confidence to kill off City when they had the chance.