There were people here who had travelled from New York, from India, to see a special, important match. A long way to come for this, that. Yes, there are derbies with less quality, but they tend to involve donkeys, not the elite of the English game. It was a match that brought back memories of United’s encounter with Chelsea at the start of David Moyes’ brief reign. Jose Mourinho played without a striker and United may as well have.
Roy Hodgson said he really enjoyed the game. He was here too. Maybe his take on an enjoyable 90 minutes has changed since then, however, as he was gone long before the end.
Sergio Aguero must also have wondered if this was the best use of his time, with Argentina in the semi-final of the Rugby World Cup. His team certainly missed him, and David Silva, and City offered next to nothing after half-time, returning the compliment of United offering zilch in the first-half.
If a Chris Smalling’s header from a Juan Mata corner, that Morgan Schneiderlin could not get over the line, after 51 minutes gave hope of better to come, it was a false promise. Not until substitute Jesse Lingard hit the bar from an Anthony Martial ball with six minutes remaining did this game come to life.
Just three minutes later, a free-kick pumped into the area found the head of Marouane Fellaini – it’s sophisticated stuff down at Old Trafford since they’ve got a Dutchman in – and Smalling turned a low shot onto the near post. Until then, the highlight had been a forceful clearance from Marcos Rojo that had pitched fortuitously for Mata, requiring Joe Hart to race from goal and win a brave 50-50 on the edge of his own area.
So, much ado about nothing-nothing, and the happiest viewers will have been followers of Arsenal, who will see this as further evidence that their team has a real chance this season. To be fair, even some of the outsiders such as West Ham and Tottenham may feel that there was little here that they do not have in their ranks.