By William Wood | In Micah's Say
Manchester City were unable to prevent arch-rivals Manchester United from securing a 2-0 victory at Old Trafford, edging Sir Alex Ferguson’s men closer to the league title.
Liverpool’s victory over West Ham on Saturday had moved the Merseysiders to the top of the Premier League table on goal difference, though Ferguson’s men held a two-game advantage.
Mark Hughes’ side went into the derby clash on the back of three league wins, the most recent a comfortable 3-1 dismissal of Blackburn Rovers, but they struggled to settle early on as the Red Devils exerted themselves.
Park Ji-Sung was the first man on the pitch to direct a meaningful shot towards goal, though it drifted wide, and it was quickly followed up by a powerful low drive from Carlos Tevez which required the full attention of Shay Given.
A nice touch from Brazil international Robinho set his compatriot, Elano, on his way, though the subsequent effort was dragged well wide of Edwin van der Sar’s goal.
Soon after, Cristiano Ronaldo cut in from the left and curled an effort straight into Given’s arms a minute later, though the World Player of the Year was suitably marshalled by Micah throughout.
However, the 20-year old was powerless to stop the Portuguese forward from curling home a free-kick from 30-yards, with hints of a deflection wrong-footing Given and seeing the ball eventually find its way into the back of the net to hand the hosts the initiative.
Micah again probed down the right-flank midway through the first-half, cutting the ball back towards the six yard box, but Nemanja Vidic – imperious throughout the match – was there to cut out the danger.
United went close to doubling their lead with 31 minutes on the clock, Tevez wonderfully cutting in from the left and swinging a ball round the City defence and beyond Given only for it to rebound off the woodwork, much to the diminutive striker’s frustration.
However, the increasingly vocal home fans had to wait only a few minutes more for their side to extend their advantage. Lovely control by Dimitar Berbatov saw the Bulgarian lay the ball off to Tevez, and much like his previous strike, he worked a yard of space before blasting the ball in off the post to make it 2-0.
City were certainly not being outplayed but they lacked killer instinct in the final third of the field, though six minutes into the second-half and Robinho could have pegged United back. The forward controlled an angled ball forward 10-yards from goal, but his subsequent shot was disappointingly wide.
The visitors were increasingly reliant on long-balls and set-pieces, and it was from the latter that Micah beat the United defence to the ball only for his header to fly wide of the Van der Sar’s right-hand post.
As the match wound down, substitute Martin Petrov’s swooping effort from 35-yards out demanded a fine save from the United goalkeeper, while the rest of the home side were content with retaining possession to prevent City grabbing a goal.
And so it was Ferguson’s team who scooped the three points, not only strengthening their claims for another Premier League title, but also denting City’s chances of securing the much-coveted seventh spot and with it Europa League qualification.