Whilst Pellegrini pointed at refereeing injustices ("Arsenal scored both goals with fouls") as the reason they drew 2-2 with title challengers Arsenal, it was the absence of midfield talisman Yaya Toure that had the biggest impact. Toure, who carried City to last season's title win with twenty league goals in 35 appearances, was not risked after returning from the international break. But with Lampard looking well off the pace, City will need a strong Toure partnering Fernandinho to face Bayern Munich this Wednesday.
Former United striker Danny Welbeck should have opened his goal scoring account early on, instead hitting the post before an incisive counter attack saw Aguero give City the lead. Last season Arsenal would have collapsed but a new found strength saw them hit back to take the lead before cult hero Martin Demichelis rose highest at a corner to equalise.
United Are Off...
The players had spent the last fortnight separately travelling the globe and working under the guidance of different national managers with separate tactical systems and formations, yet on their return to Old Trafford played as a more fluent and close knit side than in any of their previous three games.
If Louis Van Gaal could have hand-picked a defence to test his newly assembled side against, QPR’s Rio Ferdinand and Clint Hill would have been up there. The pair were not helped by a QPR side unwilling to close down or even tackle, but whilst there will be tougher tests ahead for United the evidence on Sunday was encouraging. Daley Blind, whose signing was overshadowed by the loan acquisition of Falcao, provided the defensive shield that the United defence has been in desperate need of. Breaking up and starting-up moves, Blind allowed the likes of Di Maria and Mata to play higher up the pitch and run amok. Di Maria proved the difference in the end. Gary Neville's summary of the Argentinian probably summed up his influence best, "Every time he gets on the ball it comes alive. The game just looks quicker when he’s on it.”
Greeted to standing ovations every time he appeared from the bench to warm up, Falcao appeared for his debut in the second half and showed no sign of the knee injury that kept him out of the World Cup. Only a smart save by Rob Green stopped the club's highest earner (£346,000 a week no less) from scoring the fifth.
The Shakers recorded a comfortable away win against a struggling Carlisle to move up to third in the table. Dominant in the first half Bury were unlucky to be level at the break before running away with the game in the second half with the pick of the goals coming from a well worked move that set Craig Jones free to score. Bury, now unbeaten in six games, are home to Stevenage on Tuesday night.
Last weeks defeat at the hands of Sussex pushed Lancashire closer to the drop whilst securing top flight safety for Sussex. The fate of Lancashire is now out of their hands as they sit twelve points behind Middlesex who have a game in hand. Provided Middlesex do not win that game then Lancashire head into the final round of matches next week knowing that it is victory (and a comprehensive one) needed to see them safe from relegation.
Etihad Gets Rugby World Cup
The ballot for applying for Rugby World Cup 2015 tickets has now opened and for fans in the North West who don’t want to travel too far there is one game (England vs Playoff Winner) to be played at the Etihad on October 10 2015 (8pm KO). Tickets range from £250 to £50 for adults with U16 £15.
To get your hands on tickets visit tickets.rugbyworldcup.com any time before 6pm on Monday 29 September and choose which games you fancy (it is not first come first served so you can take your time) - only oversubscribed matches will head to a ballot and confirmation or rejection will be announced in October.
Sale Sharks travelled down to Kingsholm searching for their first win of the season against a Gloucester side who themselves were looking to avenge an opening week hammering at the hands of Northampton Saints. With the Autumn international tests on the horizon, England hopeful Cipriani produced a mercurial display, with a hand in all three first half tries, giving Sale an eleven point lead at the break. Ultimately it wasn't enough as a second half fight back from the Gloucester proved too much for a creaking Sale pack. A late individual effort from Cipriani rescued two bonus points but this will go down as an opportunity missed, finishing 34-27 to the West Countrymen. Sale host newly promoted London Welsh next week in what should be a must win even at this early point in the season.
Tour De Britain
The celebrated duo of Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish narrowly missed out on achieving their usual cycling silverware in the final day of the Tour de Britain. Wiggins secured victory in the time trial to narrow the lead in the general classification to 22 seconds before the final stage but was unable to overturn Dutchman Dylan van Baarle's lead as they both finished safely in the peloton. After 88km it was a matter of inches that separated Cavendish from Marcel Kittel in the sprint for the finish line, stopping Britain from completing a final day double of stage wins.
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