Coventry City again underlined Gordon
Strachans assertions as they pushed Manchester United all the way at Highfield Road.
The Sky Blues manager has constantly praised his sides commitment and stressed
that they have to show complete effort to have a chance of turning over the biggest clubs
in the land.
And so it was here. United, fresh from Sundays stirring comeback against Arsenal,
displayed their customary incisive passing and wonderful movement but even after they had
established a two goal lead they were pushed all the way by the battling Sky Blues.
A late goal from substitute striker John Aloisi raised hopes of salvaging a point, but
it was not to be.
If there was a tactical fault it was, as Strachan pointed out, that the side lacked
width inside the United half. The Scot felt that meant Robbie Keane was isolated and
certainly the teenager had to fight a lone battle against Japp Stam and Henning Berg
an impossible task.
There was not doubt that United always had the capability to slice City apart and could
well have gone in a goal up at half time.
Dwight Yorke, playing alongside Teddy Sheringham, hit a post after 15 minutes when he
was allowed to progress unchecked and Ryan Giggs also fired just wide.
But it was by no means one-sided and Coventry probably enjoyed a greater share of the
territorial advantage in the opening 45 minutes. Youssef Chippo showed fine touches on the
ball and worked hard to stem Uniteds flow and did it effectively.
Steve Froggatt robbed Berg deep in United territory in the 20th minute but
had to delay to wait for support. The winger also played a part in a move in the first
half when he ran on to a perfectly weighted pass from Chippo but his dangerous low cross
was cleared by Denis Irwin.
City lost Noel Whelan just after the half hour when he went down on the touchline and
had to be stretchered off and was taken straight to hospital.
United began to make their individual superiority tell and City were forced back at the
start of the second half. They started the second period brightly when Chippo left David
Beckham and squared the ball to Robbie Keane, but his shot was blocked and rolled through
to Raimond van der Gouw.
Still City probed from deep looking for the opening that was unforthcoming, and when
United took the lead it was fortunate. Chippo had produced a wonderful tackle to deny sub
Paul Scholes but when the ball was played back in, the England midfielder rifled in a shot
off the unfortunate Gary Breen.
There was no doubt about the quality of Uniteds second. Scholes' 40 yard pass was
plucked effortlessly out of the air by David Beckham and Yorke headed the resulting cross
past Magnus Hedman.
But still City showed their grit. John Aloisi, on for the disappointing Moustapha
Hadji, took a perceptive pass from Keane and turned a first time shot into the corner of
the net. It was a true strikers goal.
That pumped new energy into tired legs but never seriously threatened. Sunderland will
not be easy, but City should, given the same effort, get more joy at The Stadium of
Hedman, Breen (Konjic, 84 mins), Shaw, Williams, Edworthy, Chippo, Hadji (Aloisi, 70
mins), McAllister, Froggatt, Whelan (Tefler, 34 mins), Keane
Subs: Nuzzo (gk), Gavin Strachan
Van der Gouw, P Neville (Curtis, 79 mins), Berg, Stam, Irwin, Beckham, Keane, Butt
(Scholes, 60 mins), Giggs, Sheringham (Solskjaer, 73 mins), Yorke
Subs: Culkin (gk), Cole
Coventry - Aloisi (80 mins)
Man Utd - Scholes (deflected shot, 62 mins), Yorke (header, 75mins)
REFEREE: Alan Wilkie (Chester-le-Street)
Coventry Froggatt (59 mins, foul)
Man Utd - Beckham (43 mins, foul)