Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United: the Ferguson men move six points ahead
Manchester City will still feel they can recover the deficit of six points despite Sunday’s 2-3 home defeat at the hands of arch rivals Manchester United.
Roberto Mancini’s post-match interview was surprisingly positive and he remained confident, stating that they won last year’s title with the last kick of the season.
United took the lead through Wayne Rooney’s breakaway goal after a quarter of an hour. The England centre-forward doubled United’s lead on the half hour mark, after a cross from Rafael da Silva.
On the hour Robin Van Persie hit the woodwork with a right-footed effort. Ashley Young thought he had made it 0-3 after putting the rebound home, but was adjudged to be offside. From the resulting breakdown in play, City went up the other end and equalised through Yaya Touré. City completed the comeback when, four minutes from normal time, Pablo Zabaleta made it 2-2.
A draw was looking likely, but two minutes into the allotted four of extra time, Robin Van Persie stepped up and scored the winner from a free kick.
This result puts United six points in front now, and with home fixtures against the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and City to come, Sir Alex Ferguson’s men look well set to mount a challenge for the Premier League.
The decision of Mancini to leave Carlos Tevez on the bench and start with the controversial Mario Balotelli was well documented before the game and proved a pivotal factor, as City looked much more of a threat and scored not long after Tevez came on for the Italian.
Although Balotelli did not perform and decided to run the channels, which left Sergio Aguero alone in the box, City dominated the opening exchanges. United took the lead against the run of play with their first attack, whereby Rooney deceived City keeper Joe Hart and slid the ball neatly into the corner.
United looked dangerous on the break and particularly down the right hand side. Rafael was released down the right and got the better of Gaël Clichy – who played well through-out – and cut the ball back, and there was Rooney running in behind the City defence to stroke the ball home.
City continued to dominate possession, and after losing their captain Vincent Kompany to injury, did well to push for a breakthrough. They got one on the hour after Ashley Young had a goal disallowed that looked suspiciously onside. David De Gea made a superb double save before the ball broke to Yaya Touré, who made no mistake in tucking it away from 12 yards.
Ferguson’s men struggled to keep City from penetrating the area, and only De Gea’s shoulder managed to tip David Silva’s effort onto the crossbar. Tevez hassled well, and forced a corner four minutes from the end of the 90. Zabaleta obliged, and volleyed home the header away from Van Persie to bring the sides level.
Van Persie had played well at both ends of the pitch, particularly at the back defending set pieces. Four minutes of extra time were added to proceedings, and if there was to be a winner it looked like City. When the clock showed two minutes left, Tevez brought down Rafael on the edge of the box to give the Dutchman one last opportunity to register.
Samir Nasri, on the edge of a three-man wall, stuck out a leg and sent the United fans wild as Van Persie’s deflected free kick found its way past Joe Hart and into the net.
During the celebrations, Rio Ferdinand was struck by a coin and bled from the left eye, whilst Hart kept a City fan at bay after running on the pitch.
Both managers waved away the trouble and left it to the authorities, who have subsequently made arrests. Sir Alex did not want to detract from the game and commented on the quality of the Premier League.
“It was such a good game, a very special one,” he told BBC Sport.
Mancini finished off by telling BBC Sport how he felt after the game, which will encourage City fans.
“We showed fantastic spirit. We are still strong and I am sure we can win the double this year”.