Barcelona’s Gerard Pique, Manchester United’s Jonny Evans, Newcastle’s Danny Simpson and Sunderland’s Phil Bardsley are outstanding footballers for their respective teams. As a unit they comprised the Manchester United defence that expected to beat the Sky Blues in the Carling Cup tie of October 2007. Nine months into his Coventry City career, Michael Mifsud would make national headlines with two goals at Old Trafford as the United back four were found wanting by the man nicknamed ‘Mosquito’.
One of the key factors in the victory was the ability of Iain Dowie’s men to win their individual duels. John O’Shea and Anderson were overpowered by Jay Tabb and Michael Doyle. Nani found little joy up against Gary Borrowdale while Chris Eagles and the unknown Dong Fangzhou were given limited opportunity by Elliott Ward and Ben Turner. Isaac Osbourne snuffed out the threat of Lee Martin leaving Leon Best and Mifsud to give Pique and Jonny Evans a night to forget. Andy Marshall’s save from Dong’s header at 1-0 was the catalyst for Mifsud to break away from future three times ‘La Liga’ winner and three times Champions League winner Pique to smash the ball past Kuszczak in the United goal. The evening was a tactical masterstroke for Dowie at the home of the champions.
Iain Dowie’s man-management brought out the best in the speedy striker. In March 2007 City beat Barnsley 4-1 at the Ricoh in one of the best team performances seen at the new stadium. Mifsud opened his home account in a team performance that was so good it merited repeat Mexican waves. Dowie’s departure and Chris Coleman’s subsequent appointment were the beginning of the end for the striker. A move to Bristol City in the close season of 2008 fell through before his release in the summer of 2009. He now plies his trade with Maltese side Valletta and holds the national side’s all-time scoring record. On that night at Old Trafford only the width of a post denied him a hat-trick. Without anyone realising his football career hit its peak on that October evening. Not many players score twice at Manchester United in front of 74,000 supporters but Michael Mifsud did just that.