Dominant City Midfielders Crushed The Devils

As Manchester City took on Manchester United in an English FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, there was no sign of Carlos Tevez, former United star and current City talisman. Tevez was reportedly in Italy seeking treatment for a hamstring injury. If the treatment fails, Tevez may have played his last game for City. A man of changeable moods, he has said he wants to leave and - surely a coincidence - he was linked to Juventus, a club in Italy, in Saturday's British tabloids.

This season, Tevez has scored or assisted on 50 percent of City's Premier League goals. That is an astonishing percentage. Peter Odemwingie, West Brom, is next at just over 36 percent, and he's just about his club's only attacking weapon. City has spent a fortune on strikers, but they tend to be a tactical afterthought in a squad built primarily to stifle opposing attacks and crush opposing midfields. Roberto Mancini, the City coach, rarely deviates from a five-man midfield, a system that works well with the energetic and versatile Tevez. On Saturday, even with two attacking wide players, the system left Mario Balotelli isolated and anonymous in attack.

Without his own deep-lying striker, Wayne Rooney, United coach Alex Ferguson started with just Dimitar Berbatov in attack. The Bulgarian squandered two good early chances, but after that, Yaya Toure, Nigel De Jong and Gareth Barry, City's powerful central trio, gradually overpowered United. Without Tevez to add the creative spark, City needs to find another way to create chances. On Saturday, as United struggled to clear, Toure ambushed Michael Carrick, United's defensive midfielder, sprinted forward and scored. The game ended 1-0. City had reached the FA Cup final by bullying United into creating the chance it needed.

One reason Paul Scholes has been around so long is that he is so good. Two years ago, when Scholes played his 600th game for United, Thierry Henry told a British tabloid that Scholes could "do everything." Well, one thing Scholes never seems to have learned is how to tackle. Time and again he misses the ball and catches the opponent. He is third on the all-time Premier League yellow card list and top in the Champions League. It's still a mystery why a smart and talented 36-year-old midfielder at a big club still didn't learn the art of tackling after so long.

As United were trailing, 1-0, after 72 minutes, Scholes and Pablo Zabaleta both went for a bouncing ball. The City defender arrived a half step ahead, and raised his boot to kick the ball. Scholes also raised his boot and missed the ball. He seemed to have time to turn his leg and foot slightly away, but did not try and planted his cleats firmly in Zabaleta thighs. It looked like a nasty, vindictive act by a competitive man whose team was losing. He deservedly received a red card. Scholes can be a remarkably brave player, dribbling at much bigger defenders throwing his head at balls in the penalty area. But we all have situations that touch a nerve, and in challenges for loose balls, Scholes has often looked a bit like a baby elephant that has just seen a mouse.

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