The decision by the Sky Sports panel to name Wayne Rooney as the man of the match following Saturday’s Manchester derby was met largely with confusion and disagreement. After all, he was on the periphery for 77 minutes after being superbly marshaled by the outstanding Vincent Kompany.
Indeed, it is not uncommon for a centre-half or holding midfielder to put in a shift for 90 minutes, only to see a playmaker or forward take the plaudits for an individual moment of brilliance that ultimately proves decisive, so much so that it has become something of a cliché.
Undoubtedly, there were far more impressive performers than Rooney from both teams on Saturday, including the aforementioned Kompany. Elsewhere, Fabio Capello must surely have taken notice of Micah Richards’ combative display at right-back, while the Spanish pass master David Silva oozed ease and elegance throughout.
For United, 21-year-old Chris Smalling belied his tender years and experience with a hearty display in defence, while Nani only reaffirmed his burgeoning status as United’s talisman, contributing a largely forgotten yet brilliant first-half goal and the assist for his side’s eventual winner.
As for Rooney, predictably he was not lacking effort, but he was isolated for long spells and his first touch was poor. It was the sort of frustrating display that has defined his season.
Until the 78th minute that is, when, in City's box but facing his own goal, he leapt, adjusted his body and connected with Nani’s cross perfectly with an arcing right foot. Excuse the use of hyperbole, but it was breathtaking.
Following the final whistle, it is not the powerful display of Richards, or the prodigious talent of Smalling that has grabbed the headlines or dominated conversations in pubs across the country.
No, it is the solitary moment of brilliance that decided a match, local derby, and potentially the Premier League title race.
The best player on the pitch? Not a chance. But the man of the match? Almost certainly.
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