United repaid in full but rich kids can see a Silva lining
So that's what millions can buy. Though Sir Alex Ferguson spoke in yesterday's programme notes of Manchester City's willingness to "invest colossal amounts" changing football beyond recognition, Wayne Rooney proves the nonsense of any notion that the Abu Dhabis are doing something United never have.
The £26m United paid for Rooney in 2004 might seem like buttons now, but in today's money the sum laid out was £49.1m, slightly more than the £48.4m United paid for Rio Ferdinand, according to Paul Tomkins' Pay as you Play, which uses a Current Transfer Purchase Price Index (CTPP) to calculate all Premier League transfer deals in real terms. Who could deny that Rooney was worth every penny? No one, though let's at least get some cards on the table.
The conversation in the press box had just turned to the question of how long Rooney would start ahead of Javier Hernandez when Nani twirled in his cross and the striker began shuffling back into position for what he said last night was his first successfully executed bicycle kick since he wore a school uniform – £49m players only need an instant to redefine their worth.
But this game was about what City's millions have bought, too; a game when all the distaste for their largesse and for Yaya Touré's £200,000 wages could melt away. A game in which we could just wonder at the ability of a 6ft 2in Ivorian to barge Anderson off the ball in one instant, and in the next delicately navigate a move through the right hand side of United's penalty area with which David Silva should have done more than toe poke wide after five minutes. It was a rare blemish from Silva, who demonstrated what £26m of 2010 money can buy. The reverse pass which Silva glided past Rooney and Nemanja Vidic to set up Touré in the first 15 minutes was one of the game's sublime moments, lost though it will be in the blinding light of Rooney's brilliance.
Some other City performances will probably go missing in the Rooney reverie which will justifiably occupy minds today. Micah Richards is quietly confounding the doubts which Roberto Mancini and predecessor Mark Hughes harboured about him. Vincent Kompany was the 153rd derby's finest player, the timing of the right-footed tackle which dispossessed Rooney was one of many special moments. There was no margin for error.
City were the better side, in fact, even if United's capacity never to know they are beaten won through. No doubt some will claim Mancini's decision to keep Edin Dzeko on the bench and start with only Carlos Tevez up front was him conforming to a dull, defensive Italian stereotype. But Dzeko is perhaps four weeks off the Premier League pace. His touch when he arrived demonstrated as much, even though his presence caused an immediate sense of unease in United's area and an immediate pocket of space for Tevez, who happily dropped into it.
If we are talking caution, then Ferguson's was the source of most surprise. He could have started with Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. By the end, the managers were matching each other move-for-move, Berbatov arriving from the bench only six minutes after Dzeko. It is perhaps a sign of the bias Mancini complained of on Friday, that no one will be accusing yesterday's home manager of negativity today.
Mancini's main grounds for regret should be his side's inability to capitalise in the first half they dominated. The damage Shaun Wright-Phillips wrought after an indifferent arrival from the bench – his 65th minute cross brought the goal – revealed what might have been had he, rather than the less attack-minded Aleksandr Kolarov, started the game.
It is too familiar a refrain to say that City's moment will come. Ferguson's remarkable assertion in his programme notes that the Abu Dhabis "typify a new breed of owner that has come into the game – relatively young men with a passion for football," and "an acumen that by-and-large helps them make it work," reveals that he knows they are above his sniping. Yesterday belonged to Rooney but millions can buy a blue form of brilliance, just as much as red.
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