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Two and a half men (and one massive movie star)

ESPN staff
December 9, 2012
Manchester United won a crucial derby on Sunday at the Etihad Stadium © PA Photos
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Sitcom defending - with emphasis on the 'com'

Roberto Mancini, somewhat bitterly, noted after the 3-2 derby defeat that City had 'two-and-a-half men' in the wall for Robin van Persie's decisive free-kick. Unfortunately for the Italian, the result was just as unfunny as the US show he (wittingly? unwittingly?) referenced.

Premier League: Van Persie is United's derby hero at the death
Premier League results and table

Samir Nasri was the half-man Mancini was referring to, the Frenchman hardly stretching himself to try and block the Dutchman's free-kick - instead limply deflecting it beyond Joe Hart and into the net.

You wouldn't see Ashton Kutcher phone it in like that, would you (wait, you really probably would. Have you seen that show recently? Shocking! We'll stop writing in the brackets now).

Days of Thunder

The star power on the pitch at Etihad Stadium was matched by the star power off it, as bona fide A-list movie star Tom Cruise turned up to watch matters unfold (alongside former Oscar winner Robert Duvall, lest he be overlooked).

The two actors even agreed to be interviewed by that great sycophant, Geoff Shreeves, before the match - where they both professed their love for the beautiful game. Although Duvall's claim to expert status ("I remember coming here to watch Pele in the World Cup, so that dates me") was somewhat undone when he asked at the end, "Will there be a shootout today?"

No, Robert - because over here we don't inexplicably see draws as some sort of invention of the devil.

Mario Balotelli, winning?

Mario Balotelli is definitely City's version of Charlie Sheen - the prima donna leading man who enjoys huge popularity despite, to all intents and purposes, being a nutter - and, like the mental American, he was out of the picture by the time City's 'Two and a Half Men' act appeared.

Roberto Mancini has been Balotelli's staunchest defender for a long time now, but even he lost his patience on Sunday - hauling his compatriot off minutes into the second half after witnessing one inexplicable backheel too many.

"I love him, but he can't continue to play like this," Mancini said after the contest. "When you have a player who has all this quality, you can't understand why he throws it out the window."

Will Balotelli return to the fold, or will he be left out in the cold to go on bizarre Twitter rants about '#winning' and 'tiger blood'? Only time will tell...

The nail Hammered into the coffin

Former players always seem to come back an haunt their old clubs, but on Sunday West Ham were left reeling after not one, not even two, but three of their old academy products got themselves on the scoresheet as Liverpool secured a 3-2 win at Upton Park.

Glen Johnson gave the Reds an early lead before the hosts went 2-1 up, only for Joe Cole and Jonjo Shelvey to find the net.

Technically the third goal was a James Collins own goal but Shelvey was certainly trying to claim it, so we guess this is another case of 'Two and a Half Men' scoring against their old club to secure back-to-back wins for Brendan Rodgers.

That really escalated quickly

The best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. Presented with no added commentary, Greater Manchester Police's Twitter feed on Sunday:

Oh, and then at the end of the game Rio Ferdinand was struck by a coin and a fan encroached on the pitch in an attempt to assault the United man. Good prediction, super-intendent Thompson!

Fitness levels

Tottenham lost 2-1 to Everton on Sunday, having been 1-0 up going into the closing minutes. From our crude calculations (10 minutes with a list of results, a pen, and the back of last week's Mail on Sunday), Andre Villas-Boas' side would have nine more points if Premier League games ended after 80 minutes - which would elevate them to second in table, four points behind United.

How about you train your players to play all the way to the [final] whistle, eh Andre?

Photo finish

We like good photos. This is a good photo:

© Getty Images
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