United Make Statement With Dramatic Manchester Derby Victory
The 164th Manchester derby was settled with an injury time winner from a player many predicted would win Manchester United the 2012/13 Premier league trophy. In the 92nd minute Robin van Persie scored a free kick that could end up being a pivotal moment in the race for the title between the Manchester clubs, one thing is for sure, on this evidence the Premier League trophy is staying in the North West.
It was a fascinating spectacle watched by millions in 200 countries worldwide and it didn't disappoint, you simply could not take your eyes off this game, the two City rivals showed passion and raw emotion.
The decision by Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini to drop Carlos Tevez and start with Mario Balotelli handed their rivals the upper hand as the Italian failed miserably to make any kind of impact on the match, his body language suggests he is not happy, his manager must have felt let down by his performance.
City dominated the early possession without really troubling or testing David De Gea, it was soon clear that United had adopted a counter attack style of play at the Etihad, looking to use the width of Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia in their quest to win this game.
United were ruthless and clinical when they made the breakthrough in the 16th minute, Robin van Persie had dragged City captain Vincent Kompany out of his comfort zone and he got too close to the Dutchman as the ball was played into him, van Persie sublimely cushioned the ball off his chest into the path of Ashley Young who exploited the space in front of him. Young found Wayne Rooney who managed to roll the ball into Joe Harts right hand corner leaving the England number one glued to his goal mouth unable to react.
City again started to probe but it was United who extended their lead after good work again using the width down the right hand side this time, Rafael cut a ball back to Wayne Rooney who arrived late in the penalty area to smash the ball under Joe Hart. The keeper picked the ball out of the net for the second time in 29 minutes yet to make a save in the match.
The score line at half time probably flattered the reds slightly, there was not much in this game but United had been clinical in their finishing.
For the 52 minutes Mario Balotelli was on the pitch it was like City were playing with 10 men, the introduction of Carlos Tevez changed the complex of this mach completely and gave Uniteds defence something to think about.
The game changing incident come when United had a goal ruled out for offside that would have killed off City, replays showed that Ashley Young was onside when he tapped in a magnificent effort from van Persie that had rebounded off the post after excellent footwork in the box to open up the space for a shot. City. It was the wake up call City needed and they responded by pulling a goal back when Yaya Toure scored after a brilliant double save from David De Gea, the atmosphere in the Etihad exploded in to life as City sensed the comeback was most definitely on.
Tevez was pulling all the strings for City and looked like a man possessed, his endless running and menacing movement meant that Uniteds defence would have to be switched on to prevent the threat of the Argentine.
City pulled level with 4 minutes of the match left when Zabaleta was left unmarked on the edge of the United area to drill home the goal which looked to have snatched a point for the blues. Zabaleta showed that City's mentality has dramatically changed over the last few seasons by instructing his team mates to retrieve the ball from the United goal and get back to the halfway line, the momentum was with City and they wanted the 3 points.
In injury time United substitute Danny Welbeck pressurised defender Gael Clichy in to conceding possession, his pass found Rafael who was clipped by Carlos Tevez presenting United with a free kick and a chance to test Joe Hart with what would be the last opportunity in this epic Manchester derby.
Joe Hart looked undecided on what his goal line position would be as a 3 man wall waited for van Persie to take the free kick, the Dutchman curled the ball with his lethal left foot which took a deflection off a pathetic attempt by Samir Nasri to block the effort, the ball deflected just enough to sneak into Joe Harts right of the goal sending the visiting supporters in to raptures, United had earned 3 points, opened up a 6 point lead over their rivals and had the bragging rights of the City.
The game was held up following ugly scenes after the goal when a City supporter decided to try and get up close and personal with Rio Ferdinand who had received a cut above his left eye after supporters threw coins at the United players who celebrated in front of the visitors section. The players celebrations looked like an outburst of emotion and passion after experiencing heartache on the pitch at the Stadium of Light last season when they were informed that Serio Aguero had scored in similar circumstances to this derby match to confirm City as Premier League champions.
The final whistle went and Uniteds players celebrated triumphantly with their supporters, the importance and significance of this result will not be clear until later on in the season, but physiologically it is a huge blow to City who surrendered an unbeaten home record of 37 games in the process. United will not get carried away and will look to the end of last season when they threw away an 8 point advantage as a reason to remain fully focused. The difference this year is van Persie, he is the player for the big occasion and has fitted into the Manchester United team like a duck takes to water, he could be the difference this season.