MANCHESTER: Manuel Pellegrini and Manchester City took the honours in impressive style after dismissing United 4-1 in the first Manchester derby in 42 years which saw new managers on both red and blue sides; David Moyes was left bereft after a poor United performance with few redeeming features.
Back in November 1971 Malcolm Allison was occupying the City dugout, a month after his promotion from assistant, while Frank O’Farrell had taken charge of United in the summer. They oversaw a classic 3-3 draw at City’s old Maine Road home in front of a 63,000 crowd.
United had been league leaders before and after the game and both teams were afforded a standing ovation at the final whistle. Going top was a possibility denied both teams this time around by Arsenal’s earlier dismissal of Stoke.
The team selections were intriguing with Pellegrini preferring Alvaro Negredo up front instead of Edin Dzeko and United leaning heavily on the revived Wayne Rooney after Robin Van Persie was ruled out with a groin strain.
Rooney had followed up his two goals against Leverkusen in midweek by insisting that this was “a massive game.” He had responded positively to Moyes’s midweek vote in favour of an attacking philosophy which even verged on 4-2-4.
The statistics all pointed towards United. They had won 3-2 at City last December, had won six of the previous 10 league derbies and had won nine of their 16 trips to City. So much for statistics!
The first signal of City’s determination to change all that came in the 17th minute. A poor defensive header by Rio Ferdinand was punished when Aleksandar Kolarov crossed and Sergio Aguero flicked the ball over his shoulder for his second goal in a week.
City were dominant. Rooney began to grow irritated at being shut down consistently. He had little attacking support with Marouane Fellaini held very deep and wingers Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young both ineffective. Finally, after one display of anger too many, Rooney was shown a yellow card by World Cup Final referee Howard Webb.
Inevitably, City struck a second just before half-time. Samir Nasri swung in a right-wing corner, Negredo headed goalward and the ball ricocheted off Yaya Toure and into the net.
One minute into the second half Ferdinand was caught out yet again as Aguero outplayed Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and crossed for Negredo to score his third goal in four league games from close range. Two minutes Negredo could not reach Jesus Navas’s right-wing cross but Aguero was behind him to score No4.
Patrice Evra headed against a post but City were never in danger even after the magnificent Rooney’s converted an 87th-minute free kick which made him the 11-goal leading scorer in the history of the Manchester derby.
Last season the then City manager Roberto Mancini said United’s signing of Robin Van Persie had been the difference between the teams: City, capitalising on the Dutchman’s absence, proved him correct . . . to the profit of his successor.