Memory deceives more than it serves where Manchester City Football Club is concerned. Since October 23, 2011, City fans have witnessed two crucial beatings of Manchester United and, of course, the wresting of the Premiership away from the Red Devils at the death in the season's final moments against Queens Park Rangers.
But as Robin van Persie's free kick in injury time was bending past Joe Hart, off the post and into the corner of City's net, most City fans were not focusing on the recent good times. They were probably thinking, "United always does us this way, as cruelly as they can."
Whether it is Wayne Rooney (who scored twice today, by the way) lashing a bicycle kick into the top corner, or more aptly given today's result, Paul Scholes heading home a Patrice Evra cross to steal a win in injury time, the bloody taste for City fans from these late knockout punches in the mouth by United is all too familiar.
Players are graded on a scale of 1 (awful) to 5 (how you look when you play with Lionel Messi on your PlayStation).
Normally when you observe that a keeper "was not very busy," it means he did not have much work to do. Well, Hart was not very busy today, but that is because the work that was there to be done, he did not do at all. Three shots on target, three United goals.
Rooney's second strike was in no way his fault, but Rooney's first tally saw Hart statue-still on his line as the ball dribbled past him into the net. And van Persie's deciding free kick did take a deflection, but even so Hart never seriously threatened to even get a piece of it on the way by.
As the investment houses always say, past performance is no guarantee of future returns. 1.5.
Not to pick on a player who limps off due to injury, but Kompany was hardly special for the 20 minutes or so that he played. He was on the pitch for Rooney's first score, and his absence ultimately proved fatal to City's chances to win today as both Kolo Toure and Gael Clichy committed significant errors that might have been avoided if Kompany could have continued.
The grade, though, only rates his play, not the play of those who replaced him. Fair is fair. 2.
Kompany is the one with the reputation for stepping up in the bigger fixtures, but Zabaleta is becoming City's most reliable defender against top-flight competition.
He was one of City's best players at Stamford Bridge a few weeks back, and today Zabaleta found the equalizer in the 86th minute when hope was ebbing. His defensive positioning was sound all day, too.
Unfortunately, he has partners on the back line who are not singing from the same page in the missal. 4.
Just or not, a player's day often comes down to a moment or two. Clichy had three poor moments today. All three led to United goals.
On Rooney's first goal, Clichy overran the United striker and could not block the shot. On Rooney's second goal, Clichy whiffed on Rafael's cross into the box, which left Wazza with ample time, gaping space and a big target.
And while van Persie's free kick was technically attributable to Carlos Tevez' foul, the entire sequence fell apart for City seconds earlier when Clichy foolishly tried to clear the ball up the sideline himself rather than firing it into the grandstand for a United throw or playing back to Hart (admittedly, that would have been risky, but then so was what he ultimately chose to do).
Clichy did not lose the game for City, but he will be best off trying to forget this one. 1.
With so much going wrong around him, Nastasic held his own against the formidable United attack. The times that Rooney got free were not on Nastasic's watch, and certainly Nastasic had no part of the van Persie game-winner.
Consistent with the Hippocratic Oath, Nastasic first did no harm. On City's back line these days, that puts you in the discussion for Man of the Match, unfortunately. 3.
Arsenal fans do not have much to crow about these days, particularly with van Persie lighting things up in the red half of Manchester. But every time Nasri tosses out a stink-bomb like the one he did today, including but not limited to his ill-fated deflection of van Persie's deciding free kick, Gunners fans everywhere probably permit themselves a small grin.
Oh, and Nasri got hit with a yellow card for whining, too. Perfect. 1.5.
Barry teamed up (if you can call it that) with Clichy to let Rooney's mishit first goal through. Barry also struck wildly from a scoring position when the ball found him. Midfield was supposed to be the area that City could dominate against United. Not today. 2.
Silver linings are few where last-minute losses at home to United are concerned. Silva's play, however, was a welcome sight.
For much of the season, Silva has seemed in a funk caused by some combination of injury and exhaustion. Today, though, Silva was active and confident on the ball. He also was robbed on more than one occasion by David de Gea at close range.
On another day, Silva might have had two goals and multiple assists. His play was a highlight on a dark day. 4.
Yaya's goal was more "right place, right time" than spectacular effort or scintillating play, but it was still vital and it revived City's belief when it came.
Yaya also made a number of purposeful runs through the middle of the field with the ball and created opportunities for City's vaunted striking force. It is not his fault that none of those chances were converted. 3.5.
Here is what I know about Aguero's play today: The three United goals were scored by the two guys United counts on to score goals (Rooney and van Persie.) Conversely, City's two tallies were scored by Yaya and Zabaleta, i.e., scratched out by players who have other responsibilities.
Strikers have to score to be useful. Aguero did not get enough on any of his efforts at the target, and he surprisingly failed to control a through ball from Mario Balotelli early on that would have sent him in on de Gea alone. Not for nothing, but Aguero was just not very good today. 2.
Speaking of "not very good," it's Balotelli!
Roberto Mancini's ongoing faith in Balo is at this point not justifiable. Who cares that Balotelli looks like he'll score, or is lighting it up in training, or even that Mancini might have a hunch that he will go and do it? The results are just not there.
Surely it would have helped if Aguero had controlled and converted the aforementioned pass that Balotelli sent him through with. But Balotelli had chances to score, and they were best summarized by the volley he hit 20 feet over de Gea's goal. Tevez and Edin Dzeko would be right to complain that they were passed over for the Italian today. 1.5.
Kolo Toure (21st minute for Kompany)
It feels uncharitable to dump on Kolo, who likely came to the Etihad thinking he would not have to play against United. Play he had to, though, when Kompany succumbed to injury. Within ten minutes, Rooney had scored again.
Kolo never seemed comfortable on the pitch today. That discomfort likely had a lot to do with knowing that he is not capable of keeping up with the likes of Rafael, van Persie or Rooney any more. 2.
Carlos Tevez (52nd minute for Balotelli)
It was his foul on Rafael that placed the free kick on van Persie's instep and ultimately lost the match. But that is too harsh a judgment, particularly since as mentioned above it was Clichy's brain cramp that led to the chaos just outside the City box in extra time.
Tevez was resolute and dangerous during his time on the pitch. That is way more than you can say for, um, Balotelli. 3.
Edin Dzeko (84th minute for Yaya Toure)
At this point, with these "last 10 minutes" cameos from Dzeko, you almost get to the point where if he does not score you think he failed you. That is absurd.
There is no point in grading Dzeko for six minutes of play at the end of the game followed by the ugly scenes in injury time on and off the pitch. No grade.
Manchester City supporters
Here is their day in summary: too quiet when the team was behind, boisterous when the team drew level, classless and dangerous after van Persie's winner. If the game means enough to you that you have to throw coins at the opposition (per espnfc.com) with intent to injure when things don't go your way, find something else to do with your time. Sad and disgraceful. 0.
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