NOT THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE
THERE ARE more than one hundred years of grudges and bad feeling between the two famous clubs of Manchester but just for good measure Carlos Tevez added a new chapter all of his own.
The first leg of this Carling Cup semi-final tie at the Eastlands Stadium was one of those special nights in Manchester when all the old enmity came bubbling to the surface in spectacular fashion. City dimmed the lights for the pre-match “Blue Moon” anthem but United’s fans stole the show by lighting red flares they had smuggled into the stadium. There was an edge.
It set the scene for a scintillating encounter between the two halves of Manchester – one cupless but loaded, the other using the vast array of trophies as insulation against a chilling debt piling up outside.
Even former United star David Beckham stoked the fires of the bitter rivalry by claiming that the Eastlands outfit will “never be bigger” than their rivals.
The former United midfielder, now on loan at AC Milan suggested that City’s new-found financial muscle did not mean they were in a position to compete with their neighbours.
“City will never be bigger than United,” he said. “Being successful and one of the most recognised clubs in the world doesn’t come from money. It’s about history.” The stage was set. After veteran Ryan Giggs had given United a 16th minute lead it was Tevez, the man who crossed the city from the red side to the blue last summer, to take centre stage.
After Craig Bellamy had been fouled by Rafael de Silva, Tevez stepped up to take the penalty. In what was pure theatre, there was the sight of him ignoring the taunts of Wayne Rooney, once his partner in the United attack and now his arch enemy, and driving the ball with such power, such courage, past another former team-mate, Edwin van der Sar, who had done everything in his power to put him off.
Then there was the sight of City’s newest hero Tevez running straight to Gary Neville and informing the Old Trafford skipper that he was “all mouth” after scoring the quite brilliant penalty.
The penalty was hit with every ounce of his strength. Dead straight and simply unstoppable.
Tevez had been clearly riled by Neville’s comments the day before when he publicly supported Sir Alex Ferguson’s view that Tevez was not worth the money his new employers paid to lure him across the city – and his celebration of the goal showed it.
As for Neville, the photographs that caught him giving Tevez the middle finger like a moody teenager at a bus stop hardly demonstrate a great deal of maturity for a 34-year-old professional footballer. In fact, the older Neville gets, the angrier he seems to be.
But Tevez was not finished yet. Not by a long way. He might have cancelled out the first-half opener from Giggs but this was the night when Tevez was able to really have his say. Remember that moment at Old Trafford when he cupped his ears in the direction of a United board reluctant to pay the money for him. Well he did it again here. As the ball hit the back of the net, he pushed his onrushing teammates out the way to stand in front of the United bench with his hands cupped behind his ears.
Again the chant was “sign him up, Fergie”. This time though it was City fans doing the singing.
It will, in years to come, provide some great memories for City fans providing they can negotiate the second leg of this Carling Cup semi-final at Old Trafford on Wednesday. But having played for United for two years Tevez would do well to remember that the time to stick two fingers up to United is when they are definitively, irrevocably beaten – not when they have 90 minutes at home to rescue the tie.
Ferguson declared September’s seven-goal thriller the “greatest” Manchester derby in history and this could run it close.
The bad blood and the Tevez factor should ensure a full-blooded emotional rollercoaster of a ride. – Daily Mail, The Telegraph and The Independent
TAKE THAT: United skipper Gary Neville gives former team-mate Tevez the finger.
BIG MOUTH: Tevez appeared to single out Neville with his “who’s talking now” taunt.