Manchester City haven’t beaten their city rivals twice in the same season since 1970. No team has ever turned an 8 point deficit this late in the season. Vincent Kompany scored the only goal at the Etihad stadium, giving City the edge over Manchester United in the Premiership title race thanks to goal difference.
Alex Ferguson spoke before the match about playing to win. About the danger of playing for a draw, which would have been an excellent result for United. Well, that didn’t translate onto the pitch. The Giggs-Scholes midfield was ineffective and mostly busy with defending. Wayne Rooney was too alone, and Nani looked like the player he has looked like for most of season. Detached and ineffectual.
City found it hard to create chances, but kept pushing forward and there was no doubt who was the better team, the team looking for a goal. United? They actually wasted time whenever they could during the first half. They were punished for their negative play despite good defending throughout the first half, through as set piece. Vincent Kompany rose too high for everyone, Carlos Tevez blocked the too hesitant David de Gea and City scored a goal with perfect timing, seconds before the first half came to a close.
There was a clear shift in momentum early in the second half. United actually started playing football in the second half, while Mancini moved his players backwards. Carlos Tevez came off, making room for Yaya Toure to take over in a fantastic second half. Danny Welbeck came on for Park Ji-Sung which didn’t really change anything. Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young came on as well, but didn’t really change anything.
City had more space to roam; Sergio Aguero, Samir Nasri and Yaya Toure created chance after chance, missing great opportunities to finish off the match. United’s failure to create anything on the other side meant their misses were forgiven.
Above everyone stood two players – Vincent Kompany with what might be one of the greatest goals in the club’s history, if the matches against Newcastle and QPR go well; Gareth Barry, who completely annihilated and cancelled out the United uber-veteran midfield. Nothing brilliant and flashy. Simply efficient and clinical for 90 minutes.
Alex Ferguson lost his head a bit after Nigel De Jong was booked for a tackle on Welbeck, which created the second most interesting moment in the match, as Mancini and Sir Alex came to words with David Platt and the fourth official between them. Ferguson made too many mistakes with his starting lineup, and looked more frustrated and out of sorts than I ever remember him.
The pressure at the top of the table has taken down both teams this season. United looked on the yellow brick road taking them to another title, but fell apart in three weeks with a defeat at Wigan and a 4-4 draw against Everton. City fell apart mentally, caving under the pressure, when they led the table and United were coming from behind.
Two matches left – City have the harder draw. A visit to Newcastle and later hosting QPR. United have two mid-table teams with nothing to play for – Home against Swansea and away to Sunderland. Not easy, nothing is easy in this league, but on paper, you might even say they’re still favorites to win the title. City are in control now, but Mancini needs to keep this team off the celebrations. A 44 year wait seems too important and long to blow now after beating United twice this season.