Manchester City’s proud two-year unbeaten Premier League home record came crashing down amid a cauldron of controversy and seething hatred.
The fact it fell to the despised Reds from across the Mancunian divide made it all the more detestable and unpalatable, setting the seal on Roberto Mancini’s worst week in charge at the Etihad.
But let’s be clear on one thing as the Fergie-fawning headline writers and leech-like pundits prepare Mancini’s Manchester City obituary – City lost a battle here, not the war.
‘Typical City’ nowadays is a gutsy resolve to never give up and this was evidenced aplenty with a valiant fightback from two goals down, minus the injured Captain Kompany.
Alas, this was a City who paid the price for slovenly defensive marking and that rarest of occurrences, rarer than Lord Lucan seen riding Shergar, a sub-standard showing from Joe Hart.
There are few finer goalkeepers and even fewer football ambassadors than genial giant Joe, but the hugely talented and affable England Number One had the proverbial ‘bad day at the office’.
The visitors had three strikes on target resulting in three goals. Hart didn’t make a single save. He was curiously cataleptic when the utterly reviled Rooney scuffed a pedestrian punt into the bottom right corner of his net in the 16thminute.
So often City’s saviour, Hart inadvertently contributed to City’s downfall by failing to take command as Gael Clichy sought his help in added time.
Had he hoofed the ball downfield, instead of allowing Clichy to be dispossessed in the run up to the harshly adjudged Tevez trip on Rafael, City would have salvaged a thoroughly deserved point.
Irony of ironies City were the better side overall, despite a swift, incisive counter-attacking United performance.
City have ground out wins this season without being at their best, and yet here was a City side with double the attempts on goal, quadruple those on target and four-times as many corners as United…and they lost.
In a similar vein to their 3-2 FA Cup defeat in January, City emerged with the moral high ground as gallant losers. Perversely the individual defenders, Clichy, Kolo, the prodigious Nastasic and Zabaleta played well, apart from switching off and giving Rooney the freedom of the Etihad for the second goal.
Zaba personifies everything that is good about the modern day City – a never-say-die foot soldier who you’d want in your trench every day of the week. No wonder the City faithful adore him. His 85th minute equaliser brought incredulous, albeit short-lived joy.
Yaya’s opening goal on the hour had reignited hope after tenacious Tevez worked an opening in the 18 yard box.
Other elements of note, David Silva and Van Persie both hit the woodwork at opposite ends and United had a goal disallowed.
If, is such a big word, but if, Mancini ultimately pays the price of European failure and not retaining the PL title, many will point to his ‘parental’ blind spot with the not-so prodigal son, one Mario Balotelli.
It pains me to write it, but the cons are now outweighing the pros with the infuriating Italian striker. Now in his third term at City, Balotelli is Mr Inconsistent. Capable of brilliance and ignominy in equal measure with a large dollop of petulance, he may already have been the undoing of his doting guardian and career guiding light.
When the effervescent, all action Tevez replaced the truculent talent from Palermo, City began to dominate. Mario is an enigma and a frustration but the Judas-like jerks purporting to be City fans who booed him off should get a serious reality check.
Where does it state in any battle manual that, in the heat of the fight with a sworn enemy it’s a good idea to turn on your own troops? Bloody idiocy from ‘Johnny Come Lately’ cretins.
On the topic of reactionaries, the judge & jury Manure loving media are already debating City playing behind closed doors, after Rio Ferdinand was struck by a coin during over exuberant celebrations in the face of the City crowd.
Now, my powers of recall may be dimmed with age, but I don’t recall an outcry when City’s Craig Bellamy was felled by a beer bottle, thrown at him from the Old Trafford pig pen in the Carling Cup semi final in 2010.
While not condoning acts of hooliganism, we should also abhor the blatant hypocrisy that abounds where United are concerned.
Referee Martin Atkinson gave an excellent demonstration when a rampaging Yaya eluded three tackles and a Rooney foul to surge clear of the Red’s backline, only for City’s advantage to be waived so the merkin head-wearer could be booked.
Deplorable officiating, inept at best or at worst, well who knows?
And then we have the gormless Phil Jones, United’s village idiot. The brain dead Red was only on the pitch for a total of 10 minutes but managed two attempts to incite a riot and only mustered one yellow card.
Maybe, just maybe he’s heard and actually managed to comprehend the lyrics of City’s ‘Kun Aguero signing’ song and is a sensitive soul.
So, in conclusion, City lost a match, are six points behind United, are on the cusp of signing Daniele De Rossi, are going to fight ‘till the end and finish top of the Premier League in May.