By William Wood | In Match Reports - Away Games
Derby day was to belong to Manchester United as they held on to a 2-1 win over Manchester City at Old Trafford, with Wayne Rooney’s stunning winner handing Sir Alex Ferguson the three points.
Anticipation was high, as it always is when the two foes come head-to-head, and a fired up Micah started for City, whilst there were surprises up front for both sides in Ferguson’s decision to leave club top-scorer Dimitar Berbatov on the bench and Edin Dzeko among the substitutes for the visitors.
There was a scare for City within the opening minute as Joe Hart came to punch a corner and missed the ball, though he collected Nani’s ensuing drive back in to the box.
However, if the home side held any thought of City starting slowly they were to be shocked in to life three minutes later. Nice interchange between Carlos Tevez – forever booed throughout the game – Yaya Toure and David Silva saw the latter through on goal, and though he beat Edwin Van Der Sar with his low drive he also saw the ball curl an inch wide of the post.
It was the bright start fans and neutrals alike had hoped for, with Micah driving down the right at every opportunity, and next effort to be forthcoming was a 25-yard drive from Nani that floated over the crossbar.
Both central strikers for the two teams – Tevez for City and Rooney for the Red Devils – were looking increasingly isolated, with the England international being well marshalled by Vincent Kompany and co.
City were having the better of it but United could have been in front as Darren Fletcher – who scored a brace in this fixture last term – was free to head towards goal at the back post only for the ball to find its way to Hart on the goal-line.
However, the league leaders weren’t to be denied again moments later as a simple but slick move edged them in front. Rooney flicked the ball on to Ryan Giggs who in turn found Nani, and the Portugal international controlled and slotted the ball home to make it 1-0.
It was a hard pill for City to swallow after they more than matched their opponents in the first-half, though Yaya Toure looked to make early amends in the second half as he drove a loose ball across the six-yard box only for it to evade his teammates.
Micah, too, went close as he threw his body at a cross only for John O’Shea to do enough to put him off his stride. The defender was to become a prominent component of City’s set-pieces as he looked to use his aerial prowess to equalise.
The hosts were still a potent attacking threat, however, and Fletcher’s attempted pass to Rooney was cut out superbly by Kompany, and Nani failed to capitalise on the chance that fell to him as he dragged his effort wide.
The introduction of Dzeko undoubtedly lifted City and they finally levelled proceedings minutes after his introduction. Fellow substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips pulled the ball across United’s box and Dzeko’s shot hit the back of Silva and then the back of the net to make it 1-1 with 25 minutes remaining.
Few could argue that it was more than City deserved, and in the same manner few could argue that the strike that put United back in front was unworthy of any game of football as Rooney’s spectacular finish undid the visitor’s good work once again.
Nani’s cross was floated in and with the City defence allowing the ball to drop towards the ground, Rooney acrobatically connected with the ball and the overhead kick flew passed Hart to make it 2-1 in one of the goals of the season.
There were to be remaining chances for City but none that could produce a goal, and Roberto Mancini is once again left to ponder how best to close the gap between the two sides. Can anybody catch the league leaders who are now seven points clear at the top, and eight ahead of City?
Man Utd: Van der Sar, O’Shea, Smalling, Vidic, Evra, Fletcher, Scholes, Anderson, Nani, Rooney, Giggs. Subs: Lindegaard, Brown, Owen, Berbatov, Hernandez, Carrick, Rafael Da Silva
Man City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Zabaleta, Milner, Barry, Toure Yaya, Kolarov, Silva, Tevez. Subs: Given, Wright-Phillips, Dzeko, Boateng, Vieira, Jo, Toure