Man City and Manchester United legends roll back the years on a night to honour Vincent Kompany – Stuart Brennan
The irony did not escape Vincent Kompany, injured for his own testimonial.
The Manchester City fans would have loved to see him play. They would have cheered every touch.
But it was somehow fitting that he didn’t, and that his City teammates had to battle on without him, just as Pep Guardiola’s squad are doing this season.
The important stat of the night was that over 51,000 fans turned out, both to pay their respects to a legend, and to raise some much-needed cash to tackle the scourge of Manchester’s homeless problem.
Kompany had to watch from the sidelines as the Premier League XI, inspired by a Robin van Persie goal and assist for Robbie Keane, replied to Martin Petrov’s opener.
But testimonial games like this are all about pantomime villains, about affectionate remembrances, and about men who look like they have stepped out of the nearest boozer – until they caress the ball with effortless ease.
Kompany had recruited players for his City legends team who neatly encapsulated his ten and a bit years at the club.
Martin Petrov was there from the early days, and he fittingly got it all rolling with a sprint down the left, racing on to David Silva’s typical defence-splitter and leaving Gary Neville panting and puffing near halfway.
That set us up nicely.
Of course there was going to be some mock needle, and of course the City fans were going to give some light-hearted booing to Jamie Carragher and the clutch of former United players.
They would have been disappointed had it been any other way.
We had Ryan Giggs, looking less like a cocker spaniel chasing a piece of silver paper in the wind – as Sir Alex Ferguson once described him – and a bit more like a bulldog forced to go for walkies on a wet Wednesday.
Keane equalised, from van Persie’s set-up, in the first half, and the Dutchman curled in a beauty to put the All Stars ahead early in the second half.
There was Sergio Aguero playing like he, too, has been five years retired, backing up the view that, unless it matters, he is pretty rubbish!
He even stood up Michael Carrick and, as everyone expected the usual flick of the turbo-boost switch, he could not be bothered and passed to a teammate. No point in risking those expensive hamstrings.
Nigel De Jong did not disappoint. City fans loved his blood-and-guts approach, and in the opening five minutes he was launching himself into ex-United players. Nothing like his infamous World Cup final acrobatics – this was a friendly, after all. But enough to let them know he was there.
Paul Scholes tried to do the same, hacking at Samir Nasri twice without managing to bring him down. He’s not dirty, just rubbish at tackling. Apparently.
The Middleton lad looks like a pub footballer these days – until he gets on the ball, and then you can still see the quality. His nonchalant pretend slice, to find a teammate, was the moment of the night.
Full credit to the United lads for getting behind a great cause – they were class players in their day, and turning out for a City legend was a classy gesture.
With so many tiring legs, Kompany provided some of his current Anderlecht squad to complement both squads, while Kompany’s brother Francois – formerly of Macclesfield Town – had a run-out, too.
To give the night some neat symmetry, Benjani – another player from the pre-takeover days – glanced in a late goal, just as he did in the Manchester derby 11 years ago, to end the night on another big positive.