DCSIMG

United won't send thanks to City

If Manchester United do end up winning the Premier League title there will be no note of thanks wending its way to Manchester City.

For not only have City taken six points from their neighbours this season, they have also managed to concede the same number to the Reds' biggest rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.

It is the latter four results that signpost just how far away City are from becoming the Champions League team that owner Thaksin Shinawatra wants them to be in two years time.

This was the sixth time in succession Chelsea have downed City in the Premier League and it was a straight forward task.

There was some resonance to the ground announcer's choice of full-time music. `Don't stop Believing' by Journey was the tune of choice and judging by some of the home fans' reactions there may be those who already have for this season at least.

Eriksson sent his men out with a couple of simple aims. One was to show that mentally they were not in designer swimwear, lying on an exotic beach sipping a bottle of chilled `Bolly', and the other that they could compete in the hunger and desire stakes.

To help his side achieve those objectives, the manager recalled the fit and healthy Michael Johnson and Martin Petrov to the side and restored Vedran Corluka and Michael Ball to the full back positions all of which left no place for Didi Hamann, Darius Vassell, Javier Garrido and Jihai Sun, and not even a spot on the bench for Brazilian Geovanni.

There was a thought that this might be the perfect time to

entertain a Chelsea side that has a tricky date with Fenerbahce in the Champions League tomorrow but even short of full throttle they were too classy, too clinical and too streetwise for City.

Avram Grant decided to rest six of the team that somehow managed to lose 2-1 in Turkey in their quarter-final first leg, but it was still an imposing enough side with English oak, in John Terry and Frank Lampard, at its heart.

In the end, Grant was proved correct to rotate as the pocket powerhouse Michael Essien and sidekick John Mikel Obi made the crucial midfield battle look too much like men versus boys.

Those fans of these two sides who had witnessed the wonderful, fast-flowing, fear-free FA Youth Cup final first leg between at Stamford Bridge on Thursday and come expecting something similar, were disappointed.

Money, experience and the pressure of delivering expectation weigh more heavily on players and managers in senior football, and this contest was in large parts a game of tactical chess played out between two of the less flamboyant and noisy, but more cerebral, members of the League Managers Association.

The Londoners arrived with five straight Premier League wins over the Blues since their shock 1-0 defeat under Jose Mourinho courtesy of a Nicolas Anelka penalty.

Ironically, both the French star and Shaun Wright-Phillips were in the City side that October 2004 Day and how galling it was to see them in opposition on Saturday.

The Blues have never adequately replaced the right wing play of SWP, or the guaranteed goals and entertainment from Anelka for that matter.

While he waits for the exciting youthful talents of Vladimir Weiss to

mature, Eriksson will surely import a right winger to complement Petrov during the summer transfer merry-go-round.

That he needs alternative attacking outlets has been plainly obvious most of the season but particularly highlighted here when the game was screaming out for City to play two up front.

If the likes of Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott do become surplus to requirements at their respective North London homes, then City would do well to offer them a substantial relocation package.

Here it was Anelka who did the early damage from out on the flank, latching on to a pass from Essien and then producing a teasing low cross that induced a lunge from Richard Dunne that only diverted the ball beyond the rooted Joe Hart.

There was an uplifting and spirited reply as Petrov fired just wide and then Benjani planted a free header wide.

Juliano Belletti got in the way of Stephen Ireland's goal-bound shot after a cut back from Benjani, and Petrov followed up with howitzer from outside the box that brought the afternoon's best save from Cudicini who was then grateful for Ashley Cole for clearing Johnson's deflected effort off the line.

Chelsea are masters at getting a goal up and then squeezing the life out of the game and they did so with some comfortfor most of the time.

When they did take off the shackles just after the break they doubled their advantage as Essien sent Solomon Kalou through the middle to score with ease and City misery was complete when they lost

Nedum Onuoha to a dislocated shoulder injury.

 
 
 

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