By William Wood | In Match Reports - Away Games
An enthralling derby at Old Trafford eventually saw Premier League champions Manchester United triumph 4-3 against Manchester City, Michael Owen’s winner in stoppage time ending the visitor’s unbeaten start to the season.
Wayne Rooney opened the scoring for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, though a mistake from Ben Foster allowed Gareth Barry to equalise for City.
The home side seized the lead in much the same fashion as the first-half when the teams returned from the interval as Darren Fletcher headed the Red Devils back in front in the 48th minute, though an on-fire Craig Bellamy cut inside and blasted the ball passed Foster to level.
United continued to press for further goals whilst the overall tempo dropped, and Fletcher’s second headed goal looked set to be enough to secure the three points before Bellamy capitalised on a Rio Ferdinand mistake to race clear and complete his brace.
However, with four minutes indicated the referee allowed the game to enter its sixth minute and a Rooney hoist forward was collected by Owen before the England striker flicked the ball over Shay Given to send the home crowd into raptures.
As is always the case with a game involving both Manchester sides, there had been much tit-for-tat exchanges between the managers of both clubs, as well as several members of each squad.
A large part of the pre-match hype revolved around Carlos Tevez’s return to the club he departed in the summer, and the Argentina international was selected among the starting-eleven, provoking a sustained barrage of boos.
But such chants were replaced with cheers within two minutes of the game starting as Patrice Evra lost his marker and cut the ball back from the touchline for Rooney, and the United forward carved his way passed Nigel de Jong and Kolo Toure before slotting the ball beyond Given.
It was a far from ideal start for Hughes’ men, though with City on the back-foot throughout the opening quarter of an hour Barry equalised. Tevez closed down Foster as the young stopper sought to clear the ball before snatching it off his opponent and finding Barry who added the finish.
The equaliser clearly rocked the hosts even as Rooney attempted to break clear of the City defence and curl the ball home – the effort eventually flying high and wide with 32 minutes on the clock – while Dimitar Berbatov headed over from Ryan Giggs’ whipped cross.
Tevez was demonstrating to both sets of fans exactly why City were so jubilant upon his signing and United fans were gutted when he left, and he could and should have edged his new side in front just before the break.
Toure dispossessed Rooney and burst forward before picking out Ireland. The Irishman turned on the ball exquisitely to allow Tevez to control the ball and shoot, but his right-footed effort hit the post.
City would have rightfully gone into half-time feeling the more confident of the two sides, but their game-plan was once again undone by an early goal in the second-half.
Fletcher is often an overlooked member of Ferguson’s squad but the Scotland international rose above his colleagues to connect with Giggs cross and head beyond Given to hand the Old Trafford side a 2-1 lead within three minutes of the re-start.
Park Ji-Sung then blazed over from the edge of the box before Bellamy hauled City back into the game with one of the finest goals ever scored in the derby. The Welshman cut inside from the left before unleashing an unstoppable shot beyond Foster and into the top corner to make it 2-2 amid frantic scenes in the north.
Although the goal could have spurred City to push forward, instead Hughes’ side seemingly contented themselves with the point, thus inviting United on to them.
Fortunately they had a world-class keeper in Given between the sticks, and he made three incredible saves in the space of five minutes, twice to deny Berbatov headers that seemed destined for the back of the net and then from Giggs as the veteran connected with Antonio Valencia’s cross.
However, the stopper was helpless to prevent Fletcher from adding his second and United’s third as Giggs chipped in another free-kick on the left, with Hughes visibly furious with his side’s defending.
With time seemingly ticking away there was still enough of the game left for further drama. First, Wright-Phillips struck the ball first-time following Stephen Ireland’s pass, forcing Foster to tip it behind, while Micah himself could have snatched City’s third as he just missed the ball as it was whipped across the six-yard box.
The Eastlanders did find another way through, though, as Rio Ferdinand’s misconceived flick was collected by Bellamy, allowing the lightning-quick forward to race through on goal, evade Foster’s challenge and slot the ball home to grab what looked to be an assured – and arguably well-deserved – point.
But when play was allowed to exceed the four minutes of injury time specified by the fourth official, there was a feeling that there was more to come, and so it proved.
City’s defence did the hard work of clearing Rooney’s attempted free-kick into the box, but when he launched it back into the box substitute Owen was on hand to control calmly and slot it beyond Given to cue wild celebrations from United’s players, staff and fans and inconsolable disappointment for the blue half of Manchester.
The controversy of the added time will reverberate around various articles in the press over the coming days, but both clubs will acknowledge the true spectacle of a classic derby that will live in the memory for years to come.
Man City: Given, Richards, Lescott, Toure, Bridge, Wright-Phillips, Barry, De Jong, Ireland, Bellamy, Tevez. Subs: Taylor, Zabaleta, Garrido, Petrov, Weiss, Ball, Sylvinho.
Man Utd: Foster, O’Shea, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Park, Anderson, Fletcher, Giggs, Berbatov, Rooney. Subs: Kuszczak, Neville, Owen, Carrick, Nani, Jonathan Evans, Valencia.
Manchester United: Rooney (2’), Fletcher (48’), Fletcher (80’), Owen (96’)
Manchester City: Barry (15’), Bellamy (15’), Bellamy (89’)