ENGLAND: Manchester United, humiliated 6:1 by their neighbours at Old Trafford last October, are back where manager Sir Alex Ferguson believes they always belong: on top of the Premier League for the first time in five months.
Goals from Wayne Rooney brought United a 2:0 win at home to West Bromwich Albion while City, simultaneously, were losing 1:0 away to Swansea, the Welsh club appearing in the Premier League this season for the first timeLuke Moore scored the 83rd-minute goal which pushed City off the top.
Without that goal City would have remained top, even with a draw, because they have a superior goal difference. But this is no longer the huge divide it was once. Now it is down to just plus-eight.
An enormous roar rolled around Old Trafford as fans learned, by radio and sms, of Moore’s goal. It ended a run of four successive league wins by Roberto Mancini’s but added to a sense of frustration after the single-goal defeat by Sporting in Lisbon in the Europa League in midweek.
Substitute Moore had only been on the field only 10 minutes when he rose at the far post to head Wayne Routledge’s cross beyond Joe Hart. It could have been worse for City since Scott Sinclair converted an early penalty for Swansea. In the second half Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero wasted good chances for City and Micah Richards had a header ruled out for offside.
Disapppointed Mancini said: “We controlled a lot of the game and had some chances when we should have scored but we didn’t and , instead, made a mistake when we conceded their goal. Just like against Sporting.”
United had also suffered a midweek European setback, in their case even more damaging since it was by 3:2 at home to Spain’s Bilbao. They recovered far more effectively with Paul Scholes commanding in midfield and Rooney and Danny Welbeck a potent threat in attack.
Rooney touched home Javier Hernandez’s right-wing cross for his 25th goal of the season and his 14th in as many games to give United a deserved lead at the break. Rooney scored his second from a penalty in the 71st minute after outstanding England winger Ashley Young had been fouled by Keith Andrews.
By that time West Brom were already down to 10 men after the expulsion of Jonas Olsson.
Ferguson was happy with both result and performance. He said: “Maybe it’s a surprising way to finish the day on top of the table but what was more important was the level of our own performance. We needed that after the disappointment on Thursday. The boys played fantastic football. We should have scored a lot of goals.
“Our our two centre backs, Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans, were absolutely brilliant. When you get a solid foundation like that you can go on the attack with no worries about what’s happening at the back.
“Only a few weeks ago we were seven points behind so we’ve turned around eight points. That’s all credit to the players and the resilience of our squad because we’ve had a lot injuries.”
City, be warned. Also, Bilbao, in San Mames on Thursday.
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