“For David Silva it is easy to play football. Everything is easy for him” – Roberto Mancini.
“The best signing we’ve made” – Carlos Tevez.
On reflection, in the 86th minute when Sky Sports commentator Alan Smith awarded the Man of the Match award in the Manchester derby to City right-back Micah Richards – who had played extremely well as an overlapping attacking threat, after the initial twenty minutes when Ashley Young had very much given him the run around – you could almost imagine David Silva hearing that decision, with the score at 3-1, looking up at the commentary box and thinking ‘right, I’ll show you who the best player on this pitch has been.’
Seven minutes later, following the final four minutes of normal time, three minutes of injury time and a further three goals from Roberto Mancini’s side, the Spanish playmaker had made Smith’s earlier decision appear laughable, and utterly irresponsible. Do not denigrate the grandiose nature of the former Valencia man, for he can make you look foolish whether there are seven minutes, or seven seconds left on the clock.
United had started the game well, but as soon as City found their poise, Silva came to the fore. The headlines following the 6-1 demolition of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side (champions we must not forget) have been about Balotelli, his two goals and his latest display – firework puns aplenty amongst the red tops – but it was Silva, the metronome around whom the other City players work, the sublime conductor in Mancini’s meticulous machine, who was the undoubted star of the show.
It was as if the player with number 21 on his back – but who is the most imperious of number 10’s currently plying their trade in the Barclays Premier League – was playing his own game. Lending the ball to team mates before getting it back, teasing opponents who just didn’t know what he had seen that they hadn’t, all the while making sure he never squandered possession.
Throughout the match he was enterprising, both in terms of his movement in-between the lines – he often begins matches playing from the right, before abandoning that position to pick holes in opposing defences as soon as he has determined just where they are weakest – and with his passing, whether it be a simple five yard pass to create a better angle, or a cleverly inventive 30-yarder to change the angle of an attack. His team give him the ball as soon as he asks for it, no matter the situation. He asks, they give, and then they move. They move, safe in the knowledge that he’ll not lose possession, no matter the pressure he’s under, and that if they make the correct move, he’ll find them.
The most brilliant portrayal of just such a moment came in the build up for Balotelli’s second goal. Neat interplay in a tight area between Silva, Richards and James Milner saw the trio work Silva into the United penalty area in the inside right position, faced by United midfielder Anderson. Many a lesser player may have become flustered, not knowing what their best option was and would have just clipped the ball across, looking hopefully for a striker to get on the end of it and to force some kind of effort on goal.
Instead the most trusted of trequarista’s waited, weighed up the situation and performed the most delicious pirouette and reverse pass – having turned a full 360 degrees to bamboozle his Brazilian shadow – to find the marauding Milner, whose drilled, precise cross, was tapped home from Balotelli.
No one else on the pitch would have tried it. Heck, no one else on the pitch would have had the foresight to even see it. It was so delightfully decadent, yet so simplistic. And it was so devastating, the goal that killed the game as a contest.
Nonetheless, there was to be one more piece de resistance from Silva, with his assist for Edin Dzeko’s second goal and City’s sixth. Plucking the ball out of the sky with ease, his first touch flicked the ball up, before his second, an expertly executed volley, cut apart the United defence with inch-perfect precision, allowing Dzeko a free run at David De Gea, the Bosnian finishing with aplomb, giving the exquisite pass the finish it deserved.
In these modern days of football where there is so much focus on frustrating the opposition, on formations and keeping defensive shape, never allowing yourself to become exposed, it is game-changing players – number 10’s, trequarista’s, playmakers, those who set the tempo, who have that bit of creation, courage and genius inside them – that are so important in the subtle destruction of defences.
The truly exceptional ones are few and far between and can be counted in no more than single figures – Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Ozil, Sneijder, Pastore (more?) – but they have the magical ability to cut apart even the sternest of opposition defences with apparent ease, whilst they make those around them, supposed lesser players blessed to be performing alongside such prodigiously talented individuals, perform to a higher standard.
In David Silva, Manchester City have just such a magician. And anyone who doubts that, would do well to re-evaluate their opinions, before they are made a fool of by Manchester’s most majestic.