LONDON: Manchester United have only themselves to blame for allowing Manchester City to ratchet up pressure at the top of the Premier League.
United, playing first, ran out at Old Trafford as if expecting Everton to be still suffering a hangover from the previous weekend’s FA Cup semi-final defeat. But that complacency only permitted Everton to grab a dramatic 4-4 draw. City then moved within three points by scoring a 2-0 win at Wolves which also ensured their hosts would go down.
The title battlers’ next game sees United go away to City next Monday, April 30. If City win against Wolves and win the derby they will edge back level with United on points and ahead of them on goal difference – with two games remaining.
At Old Trafford United, twice in the second half, established a two-goal lead after having to come from behind initially to an early strike from Nikica Jelavic.
Goals from Wayne Rooney (two), Danny Welbeck and Nani were not enough, however. Marouane Fellaini, Jelavic again and revived Steven Pienaar stunned Old Trafford and Sir Alex Ferguson. Everton’s last two goals came in the closing seven minutes.
United manager Ferguson said: “It was a bad performance, an absolute give-away. A travesty. Our goals were great so to give away four at Old Trafford in a game as important as that – well, I can’t believe it.”
Manchester City, kicking off two hours later against doomed Wolves, could probably hardly believe it either.
Manager Roberto Mancini had been insisting that the title race was all over and his team had responded by playing with more freedom. Now that the pressure was back on, Mancini’s men looked nowhere near as relaxed and allowed Wolves to stretch them far too often.
In the end the quality of Sergio Aguero in the first half and Samir Nasri in the second earned the points which lifted City within three of United.
As Ferguson, looking ahead to next Monday, said: “It’ll be the most important derby game we’ve ever played.”
** Liverpool fans gave ex-manager Roy Hodgson a generous ovation as he led out West Bromwich at Anfield. Albion’s 1-0 win then meant Hodgson could enjoy the satisfaction of revenge for his Anfield sacking in January last year.
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