|Edin Dzeko leads the reaction to his clean connection on the volley|
Like a ripe apple, this was a match that could be divided into three distinct parts: 20 minutes of slumber, followed by 25 of electric attacking, followed by 45 of stumbling around. Much has been said of City's advantage over United in terms of squad depth and Tuesday that was at least half proved by the sight of a practically all-new 11 out on the pristine Etihad turf, compared to the Sleepwalk in the Valleys last weekend.
There was an entirely new back four, featuring the welcome sight of the arm-banded Micah Richards and the less promising sight of Aleksander Kolarov strolling around at left back. As expected, the reserve central pairing of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott also got the nod, a clear confirmation that young Matija Nastasic will take his deserved place in the Cup final, after a debut season in the Premier League which has been rich in promise and high in quality.
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Of those patrolling further forward, only Carlos Tevez seems sure to play at the weekend, with Roberto Mancini having a tricky choice to make between the skills of Nasri and the drive of James Milner. Many would choose the latter; a certain well-known Italian might just do the opposite. It's a matter of taste, evidently.
Amid all the speculation surrounding the dreamy figure of Edin Dzeko, whether he was psychologically fit to play, whether he deserved to roll on the sky blue shirt after the distressingly vapid performance at the weekend, there he was, doing what Dzeko does best: First he dangled a great limb at a 33rd-minute cross from the left. The ball shot through him as if he were made of butterfly netting. It seems at times only Dzeko can marry the appearance of a proud forest stag with the durability of rice paper. But at least he kept at it.
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