Rio Ferdinand should apologise to Edwin van
der Sar for the poor backpass that started the chain of events before
Manchester City's FA Cup goal - and he should to it in person, not via a stupid
Everyone talked about Michael Carrick's lazy
ball that directly resulted in Yaya Toure's winner and indeed it exposed a
failing in the Manchester United midfielder's game: sometimes he is brilliant,
but all-too-often he makes these kinds of sloppy errors.
But Ferdinand's initial backpass was poor
and selfish: 99 times out of 100 he clears his lines but he saw an easier
option in playing it back to his goalkeeper.
Edwin is a fine striker of the ball and you
can see that it bobbled into him. Sure, John O'Shea was the recipient and he
was able to offload it to Carrick, who should have seen to it, but Rio is
supposed to exude calm at the back and should have done a lot better.
After the game Rio apologised to the fans
via Twitter, which I think is ridiculous. This vogue of players shirking their
responsibilities with a 140-character 'update' is unacceptable.
If you want to say sorry about something,
do it straight away on television or - if it involves fellow team-mates - to
their faces in the dressing room.
Saying it on Twitter carries no weight at
I predicted City would bottle it but, fair
play to them, they didn't. The first 25-30 minutes I thought were United's to
win it; had Dimitar Berbatov taken one of his two chances I think that would have
been the case.
After that City found some belief and, once
they took the lead, they never looked like they'd lose the game - they rarely
do from those positions.
United's midfield has been lacking in both
creativity and strength this season and it was exposed by City.
Roberto Mancini's side will be delighted to
have got that elusive win against United and, more importantly, to have put
themselves in a position where they are clear favourites to finally win a
It's anything but a given though - they are
up against a team in Stoke who are physically stronger than them and who have a
great deal of attacking ability out wide: two places where City could come up
City's tendency to play a five-man,
defensive midfield plays into Stoke's hands as the Potters will largely bypass
the central trio; City are also not the strongest at full-back, and in Jermaine
Pennant and Matthew Etherington Stoke have two wingers in brilliant form.
Pennant was in last-chance saloon when he
joined Stoke, washed up in England and a flop in Spain. But Tony Pulis seems to
have trimmed that chip on his shoulder and he is playing his best football -
not even Arsene Wenger was able to do that.
Etherington similarly has overcome
different problems and is one of the best wide-men in the country at the
On top of that Stoke have a central
defensive pairing that will gobble up a lone striker all day - particularly if
that striker is a target man. City desperately need Carlos Tevez back before
the end of the season as he is the only striker there who adds guile and
trickery to his physical threat, which you need to get the better of Robert
Huth and Ryan Shawcross.
Given the relative money spent Stoke
will be there to enjoy the day, relaxed, with no tension and nothing to lose.
They will believe they can do it and will enjoy the way City play - I'm not
sure Mancini will or can change from playing five in midfield.
You don't need a three of Yaya Toure, Nigel
de Jong and Gareth Barry when playing Stoke: there isn't a central midfield
battle to win and you need two out wide and two up top if you're going to test
Stoke's back four - you have to pass it around them, not through or over them.
Can City move away from a counter-attacking
mentality? They will have to take the initiative to beat Stoke and I'm not sure
they are set up to do that.