The Reds came to party, arrogance overflowing spitting vitriol, venom and spite, vowing to silence the upstart noisy neighbours and hail a ‘Glory Glory Man United’ celebratory night.
Fergie spewed aspirations of humiliating the reigning champions with a record Premier League points winning margin, as the Old Trafford banners proclaimed ‘Aguerooo-noooo…’ – the Manure faithful making light of that painful, fateful day last May.
It turned out to be a case of ‘premature exhilaration’ as Sergio Aguero’s stupendous right foot triggered wild Manchester City celebrations, firing a sensational 78th minute winner to once again torpedo United’s hopes.
City were superior in every conceivable way as Roberto Mancini registered back-to-back league wins at The Swamp with a master class of slick passing, intelligent movement and astute tactical manoeuvres.
It’s befitting that Mancini should become the first City boss since the glorious Mercer-Allison era to triumph twice in succession in tawdry Trafford, but he still has some way to go to emulate the quintet of consecutive wins spanning 1967-1972.
One can only hope that the Italian who, if he wins the FA Cup for City this season will be within touching distance of being the club’s most successful manager of all time, is given just that – time – to build a dynamic dynasty at the Etihad.
Rumours persist that Roberto is a ‘deadman walking’ irrespective of FA Cup success. This is a man who will have delivered a trio of top three Premier League finishes in his three-and-a-half seasons at the club. Any conjecture about his future should be treated with the contempt it deserves and consigned to the crapper.
Sources of integrity associated with City say that IF Mancini himself elects to leave, Manuel Pellegrini of Malaga is primed to move in. Pellegrini has a great pedigree, having previously taken Villarreal to the semi finals of the Champions League and coming within 120 seconds of conquering the formidable Borussia Dortmund in this week’s quarter finals.
That said, Mancini is the man. He says City will win the title next season – sounding encouragingly like a man who will be leading the club, safe in the knowledge that Txiki Begiristain, City’s Director of Football will succeed in landing top transfer targets this summer.
Pre-match, Roberto lamented how missing out on Robin Van Persie and Danielle De Rossi last summer had cost City dear this season. City’s powerbrokers and decision makers, now heading for UEFA Financial Fair Play compliance, won’t be so restrained this July in acquiring the talent to take City straight back to the top of the domestic game.
Back to the present and the sumptuous sight of the swashbuckling Sky Blues turning on the style in sublime fashion making a mockery of the 15 point gap at the top of the PL table. If only they’d mustered 50 per cent of such magnificence at the likes of Sunderland, Southampton, Everton, QPR and West Ham, Mancini would now be heading for consecutive titles.
City won the battle but, sadly, still seem destined to lose the war – it’s inconceivable that as superb a showing as this was from the Blues, Fergie would preside over a points implosion that would make last season’s finale seem positively mundane.
The true champions of England were on display to a global audience of countless millions…and they weren’t wearing red. Mancini’s marauders were imperious from the kick –off as the savvy Italian made Fergie appear a tactical novice. Stuck in a rut with an intransigent 4-4-2, United had no answers as City dominated possession with incisive, creative and assured forward play.
All United had to offer in the first half was a tirade of whinging and whining at referee Mike Dean, with the garrulous Giggs leading the way. A great player in his day of that there is no doubt, but nowadays he just grates.
Neither Joe Hart or David De Gea were overly worked, up to the break but City were by far the more composed, dangerous and accomplished side. Ref Dean caught the eye with his three card trick – Silva booked for handball, Rooney shown yellow when it should have been red for a malicious foul on Milner, and Kompany booked thanks to Ashley ‘dive dive dive’ Young when there was clearly no contact.
Dean was to be even more prolific with his cards before the match was over, booking Rafael and Valencia from United and Zabaleta, Tevez and Barry for City. More notably he didn’t send Rooney off for a second bad foul on Milner, nor for showing dissent – nearly losing his merkin in the process. Shrek was taken off before being sent off as United edged towards defeat.
The second half saw Danny Welbeck surpassing Young and making Tom Daley envious with a deliciously crafted dive in City’s penalty area – but no yellow card.
Giggs’ ‘wizardry’ was clear to see when he back-heeled the ball to Gareth Barry in the build up to City’s opening goal. The superb, seemingly ex-England midfielder, passed to the much improved Nasri. The Frenchman laid the ball to Man-of-the-Match James Milner who drilled his low 18 yard drive past the diving De Gea.
United’s riposte came seven minutes later in the unlikely guise of an unfortunate Vincent Kompany own goal. Van Persie whipped in a wicked free kick from wide right and a Phil Jones header deflected in off the City and Belgian skipper.
With 30 minutes on the clock it should have been game on but a strangely timid United, lacking in self confidence, persisted in trying to hit City on the break. City simply continued unruffled, dominating possession and picking passes through the hosts lumbering midfield.
Nasri – acquitting himself far better than in the last derby – gave way to City’s favourite adopted son, Aguero in the 70th minute. Eight minutes later it was very much ‘Aguerroooooo-YES’ as he took a short Yaya Toure pass, scorched into the United penalty box, withstood a Welbeck push in the back, evading three other defenders before smashing an unstoppable screamer into the roof of De Gea’s net.
2-1 – MASSIVELY deserved and the expression on Phil Jones’ face totally priceless. Jones is already established as a figure of hate and ridicule among City fans. He is actually a good footballer but an even bigger buffoon. His gormless demeanor and petulant pre-pubescent outbursts means he always appears ‘challenged’ – one wonders if he has yet mastered the knife and fork? He bears an uncanny resemblance to the Muppets’ character ‘Beaker’ the only difference being the comic creation is more intelligent.
Still, keep at it Phil lad – you’re very ‘special’ to the City fans.
Even more special – for all the right reasons – was every City player who embodied everything the Mancini-menacing media would claim is missing at the Etihad.
Passion, skill, class and a team ethic all moulded together by Mancini. Yes, the title has – barring the most improbable of imponderables – slipped from City’s grasp this season, but that will change in 2014.
This glorious win wasn’t just about the bragging rights in Manchester, nor was it just about salvaging pride. This was a definitive marker and a psychological blow to the champions-elect. It was City saying make the most of it Fergie – it’ll be your last.
NB: Match report delayed due to international travel commitments, but a journey that encompassed witnessing the Red Sea turn a beautiful shade of Sky Blue on Monday night.