Man City 2 Man United 3: Lessons learned as RVP nets dramatic winner
Man City 2 Man United 3: What lessons did we learn as Robin van Persie netted a late winner for the Red Devils at The Etihad?
151 not-out for Rooney
Wayne Rooney has endured a mixed start to the season by his own high standards. The England international was injured in Manchester United’s 4-2 victory over Fulham in August, resulting in a one-month lay-off. Since returning in late September, he has played in a deeper role which had partly contributed to a poor goal return. The 27-year-old had netted a measly four goals in 15 Premier League appearances but Sir Alex Ferguson stuck with the former Everton man for the Manchester derby. Rooney has always bagged goals in spurts and after netting a brace at Reading last weekend, he was on the scoresheet again on Sunday. The Red Devils were pegged back in the opening 16 minutes but a ruthless counter-attack gave the visitors a fortuitous lead. Ashley Young raced down the left wing before teeing up Rooney, and with Vincent Kompany and Pablo Zabaleta out of position, the forward managed to thread his shot through a posse of City defenders and past Joe Hart. It was a similar story 10 minutes later, when Rooney drifted past David Silva as Antonio Valencia countered and slotted his 151st Premier League goal into the Citizens net. It moved Rooney ahead of Michael Owen in the all-time goal-scorers list and are arguably two of his most important in recent times.
Mancini’s bizarre tactical decisions
Roberto Mancini’s faith in Mario Balotelli is undoubtedly born out of hope that the Italy international can finally fulfil his great promise and become a key player for the defending Premier League champions. The 22-year-old’s 12 appearances in the top flight for City this term has yielded just one goal, yet despite this poor strike-rate, Mancini opted to start Balotelli and bench Carlos Tevez. Balotelli’s poor form aside, the Argentina international has a point to prove having been discarded by United and subsequently moving to the blue half of Manchester. If the City manager hoped placing his trust in Balotelli would inspire a match-winning display from his compatriot, Mancini was left bitterly disappointed. Indeed, Tevez’s introduction a mere five minutes into the second half raised City’s self-belief and tempo, leading to Yaya Toure’s goal. Meanwhile, Mancini opted to bring on Kolo Toure – not Joleon Lescott – when Kompany departed after 20 minutes with an injury. It was a surprise move considering the former Arsenal defender has a scarce amount of playing time under his belt this term and appears very much in decline.
United struggle to weather City storm
When United surged into a 2-0 lead inside a breathtaking opening 28-minute spell, there was talk of exorcising demons left from last season’s 6-1 loss at Old Trafford. But realistically, City were never going to collapse to such titanic proportions and regrouped, as they have been forced to do on so many occasions in recent months against big clubs like Real Madrid. Ferguson structured his side to soak up City pressure and hit back on the counter-attack, and while it paid dividends in the opening half, United spent large spells camped inside their own half of the pitch after the interval. The Citizens had chances to snatch an equaliser, with Silva denied by an inadvertent save by David De Gea. With the pressure increasing to a crescendo point, it was no surprise to see the Citizens finally manage to restore parity in the 86th minute. United have struggled to defend corners in recent weeks, and Zabaleta was positioned on the edge of the area to pounce on a poor clearance – and the defender instinctively drilled the ball low into De Gea’s right corner to complete City’s revival, albeit momentarily.
Clichy and Nasri cause City’s downfall
City were largely dominant with 56 per cent possession and 18 attempts on De Gea’s goal, but a lapse deep into added time cost Mancini’s men a point – and quite possibly a second Premier League title. Clichy and Hart showed hesitancy when trying to clear a through ball which led to Tevez committing a foul on the edge of City’s area to give Van Persie the chance to find his range with a free-kick. The Netherlands international, known for set-piece proficiency, struck a fierce curling left-footed shot, with Nasri sticking out a half-hearted leg to block. The Frenchman’s tame attempted block did nothing but nudge the ball out of Hart’s reach and in off the post. It was Van Persie’s third winner in the Premier League this term and condemned City to their first loss in the top flight at The Etihad in two years.