As Manchester United picked up the pieces following Sunday's devastating home defeat to their neighbours Manchester City, Ryan Giggs said that there could be no repeat of the performance that has left their title chances in doubt. But privately the club are concerned that national associations are no longer willing to compromise on players over international friendlies.
The post-match complaint from Sir Alex Ferguson's assistant, Carlos Queiroz, that too many first-team players had played 90 minutes for their national teams in midweek had been a concern at United in the two days leading up to the City game. No fewer than six United players who started on Sunday played the entire 90 minutes for their country on Wednesday – including the whole defence and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Wes Brown, Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, John O'Shea and Edwin van der Sar all played 90 minutes in the midweek internationals. On top of that, Luis Nani played a half for Portugal against Italy and the Brazilian midfielder Luis Anderson played 12 minutes against the Republic of Ireland. Ronaldo would not have played against City had the suspended Wayne Rooney been available.
It has called into question the whole practice of the unofficial bargaining that goes on between clubs and the managers of national teams over the availability of leading players. In that respect, Fabio Capello also played Steven Gerrard for the full 90 minutes on Wednesday, but it has not gone unnoticed at United that Joe Cole and Ashley Cole were both taken off before the end of the game against Switzerland.
City had three players who completed the full 90 for their countries midweek – Richard Dunne, Martin Petrov and England Under-21 Joe Hart who played on Tuesday – as well as Gelson Fernandes who played 84 minutes for Switzerland against England on Wednesday. The City manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, said that he hoped the 2-1 victory was a signal that City – with just one previous Premier League win since the start of the year - were back to form.
"We played extremely good football up to Christmas and New Year and with this victory I hope we are back," he said. "Your team is never perfect but we were extremely good in everything: attitude, spirit and technique. And we were aggressive. We had the courage to try to keep the ball when we went forward and to score goals."
Giggs said that United could not afford to drop anymore points in the pursuit of Arsenal. He said: "This is the wrong time to start performing like that. It was probably the result that City deserved really. They played better than us. Defensively we didn't play well. Attacking-wise, we just didn't turn up. But there was enough motivation for us, it was a massive game for the club for lots of reasons, a derby and an important three points.
"We just didn't perform as a team, and individuals, like we have been doing this season and like we're capable of. It was disappointing on a lot of fronts. We are all very upset with the way we played. We never got going and it was not the way we wanted to mark the day."Reuse content