The big day had arrived, the day every Blue and Red fan looks for when the fixture list comes out and the first time ever when City and United occupied first and second place. United without doubt had the advantage playing at fortress old Trafford, as City have only won there a handful of times in the last thirty years. But and it`s a big but, United have never faced City team unbeaten in eight games and whilst conceding the same, have scored more than their Trafford neighbours.
The press expected Mancini to field a defensive side and go for the draw to keep the gap at two points. But this is Mancini Mark II and gone are the park the bus days. Out went De Jong, Johnson, Zabaleta, Kolarov, Dzeko and Nasri; in came Richards, Clichy, Milner, Silva, Aguero and Balotelli. Mancini was going for the jugular this time and taking the best Manchester City team to Old Trafford in this writer`s lifetime.
United kicked off right to left Rooney and Wellbeck over the ball. City chased the ball down quickly and Aguero within seconds had forced De Gea into a mistake which Silva capitalised on the move came to nothing, but City had signalled their intent.
United though were soon on the attack, first with Nani, who was quickly shackled by Clichy and then by Young who left Richards for dead and earnt a free kick as Richards tried to recover. On the edge of the box by the touchline, Young opted for the near post and Silva cleared.
On four minutes United had another free kick on the City right. City cleared and Aguero surged forward only to be brought down by Anderson in the centre circle.
Aguero was wrestled down again this time by Smalling on the United left, play on waived the ref and then seconds later awarded United a free kick for a similar wrestle this time by Richards on Young. Make of this what you will.
First shot in anger for City came from Milner just to the right of centre at the edge of the United box. The ball cannoned off a defender and was cleared. In the next move, Milner was lucky to escape a yellow for another foul on Young as the United attacker was beginning to prove a real thorn in City`s side. Balotelli cleared the resultant free kick for a United throw.
United had a corner on ten minutes taken short by Nani and drilled in by Anderson. Richards cleared with his head as City faced constant pressure with United chasing every ball and marking up excellently.
City were looking stunned and balls were going short and even when they won the ball, a foul stopped their play almost instantly.
Fourteen minutes in and a moment of magic as Silva picked the ball up at the edge of the United box and waltzed his way through three United defenders before finally being tackled by a fourth.
United were playing the ball down both wings but finding both City fullbacks marking up well and not allowing many crosses through. When the reds went down the middle, Barry and Toure were there to assist the Centre Backs.
On twenty one minutes, City worked the ball well down the left with Milner, Silva and Clichy involved. Milner cut the ball back from the by line to Silva in the United box. Silva flicked the ball on to Balotelli who had dropped off his marker to the edge of the box. A one touch side foot later and the ball was literally stroked into the back of the net to make it one nil to City.
Two minutes later and Aguero fought himself free of his marker on the City right, he curled a beautiful cross toward the head of Balotelli who had lost his marker once again. There were only inches in it but the ball was just too high.
The goal seemed to buoy the whole City side as the tackles became crisper, their passing more accurate and with twenty six minutes gone United looked visibly shocked by the score line and in the following five minutes City started to do a United on United.
United were struggling to break City down as the Blues held their defensive shape well and showed great concentration. They earnt a corner on thirty three minutes and Anderson shot from well outside the box as United grasped at straws.
City were finding it far easier to find the extra man in midfield now as they began to exert themselves. United were starting to string the fouls together as the City free kick count started to rise. A nasty looking foul by Anderson on Silva earnt City a free kick about thirty yards out on the City left. Balotelli struck the shot right into the United wall and within seconds, the reds were streaming forward and for a second had an extra man. Kompany recovered enough to slow the attack down force the ball out eventually for a corner.
On forty minutes Aguero should have made it two when played through by Milner. He delayed his shot and when it finally came, the United keeper had advanced far enough to block the ball. Again, United broke from this City attack and first yellow of the day came as Kompany brought Wellbeck down.
Rooney was now being forced to pick the ball up deeper and deeper and Anderson and Fletcher were struggling to cope with the movement of the City front four who were being supplemented by the surging runs of Toure.
As the half time whistle went, City went in one nil up. They hadn`t had to weather any storm bar the first fifteen minutes. There was no expected United come back after the City goal. City had bossed the midfield and the defence had limited United to corners and shots from distance. Despite edging it possession wise, as you would expect from the home team, there was no doubt who were the better side in the first half.
The game was set up beautifully for the second half. How would the Champions respond to the first half footballing lesson they had been given.
On forty six minutes, Milner won the ball well and played the ball through to Balotelli who got the better of Evans and through on goal, was brought down by the United centre half on the very edge of the box. The ref had no doubt and produced the red card immediately. Evans was off and United were down to ten men. The resultant free kick should have been retaken as Young rushed at the ball before it was struck, but United were allowed to clear.
Three minutes later and City should have been awarded a penalty as Richards` surging run was illegally stopped by Anderson in the United box. The ref, possibly feeling sorry for his earlier red card, waved play on as Anderson breathed a huge sigh of relief.
City nearly scored again on fifty three minutes with the excellent Richards once again involved as he took a neat pass from Balotelli who had drifted out wide. His wild swing with his weaker left foot was not the end result the Blues fans had been hoping for after such excellent build up play.
United broke quickly after this attack and worked a good position for a shot but the City defence held strong and took advantage as the ball was worked out wide to Milner who was unmarked. The cross was dispatched with pace but was just too quick for Aguero to reach.
The game was being played at 100 miles per hour as suddenly United were on the attack, earning a corner on fifty six minutes and another one seconds later. For all the attacking United were attempting the end result was one shot from Rooney from well outside the box.
City were awarded another free kick on fifty eight minutes when the excellent Richards was once again brought down in an advanced position on the City right. No bookings were being given for persistent fouling today, it would seem.
On the stroke of fifty nine minutes, Milner found Silva with a neat flick on the City right. Silva advanced into the box and Milner tracked just behind him. As Silva returned the favour to Milner, the magnificent City midfielder changed pace and broke for the touch line. He drove the ball across the face of the United goal for an unmarked Balotelli to tap into an empty net. United found themselves in a position they had never faced in the last nineteen home league games; two nil down and playing with ten men.
City were dominating everything now choosing the right pass each time and making the extra man count. Silva, Richards and Milner were having outstanding games and Balotelli despite being fouled repeatedly had kept his cool and weighed in with two goals.
Ferguson had to change things, and he introduced Jones and Hernandez for Anderson and Nani in an attempt to change his flagging sides fortunes. Little Pea`s first involvement was to win a corner which was easily dealt with by the solid wall that was City`s defence. City quickly broke from the corner and saw Barry horrendously brought down by an off the floor tackle by Evra. It was deserving of a red as Anderson was in the first half. The ref waved a yellow.
The Blues were in rapture two minutes later as this time Barry and Richards combined well on the right of the City midfield. A one two later and Richards was put through and cut an almost identical ball across the face of the United goal as City`s previous goal. This time it was Aguero who was on point to pass the ball into the empty United net. Three nil and City had made their intentions clear.
With twenty minutes to go, City`s two goal hero Balotelli was replaced by Dzeko, who with his first touch of the ball almost scored, his shot going just wide as it deflected off a United boot.
Silva should have made the score an embarrassment for United on seventy three minutes, after Milner who was in acres of space on the right found Dzeko. Dzeko looped a pass over Evra`s head for Silva to run on to. With only the keeper to beat and on his favoured left foot, he opted to shoot over the bar when a goal seemed the likely outcome.
Dzeko was booked on seventy five minutes for a bad challenge on Jones but City rallied and continued to dominate possession. As the play broke, Mancini replaced Aguero with Nasri and seconds after Nasri came on City broke quickly from a United attack and Silva surged forward, finding Dzeko with a lovely through ball. Dzeko took one touch and struck a solid shot which the advancing De Gae took with his legs.
Smalling was the next player into the book as he brought down Silva again on the City right. The United players looked aggrieved to be losing the game and their tackles were becoming more and more vicious with each passing minute. At this rate they would be lucky to finish the game with nine men.
United scored a great goal on eighty minutes as Hernandez and Fletcher exchanged passes. The shot was way outside the box but found its way past the outstretched hand of Hart and into the top corner of the City net. Great goal and score line, three one.
On eighty two minutes we witnessed another vicious foul by United this time Wellbeck on Richards, again from behind and again resulting in a yellow. I think had this been another team we would certainly have seen more than one red card being brandished.
Richards was booked seconds later for a foul on Wellbeck as he struggled to get back into position due to the injury he appeared to be carrying as a result of Wellbeck`s earlier challenge.
With three minutes go it was City on the attack again as this time Toure ran through the United defence. His cheekily struck shot with the outside of his boot curled just past the far post as a helpless De Gae looked on.
City`s final substitution of the day came on eighty eight minutes as Milner was replaced by Kolarov. City then won a corner on their left which Silva curled into the box. Barry flicked on to Lescott who cut the ball back to Dzeko whose finish went past the keeper and into the net. Four one to City.
With the next attack, it was five one as Dzeko nutmegged Ferdinand with a wonderful pass and found Silva on the overlap again on the City right. One touch of the ball and Silva passed the ball beneath the advancing De Gae and into the United net. This was a stunning victory for City and a terrible humiliation for United.
In the ninety third minute, one of the passes of the season from the diminutive magician David Silva played Dzeko straight through the United defence and the towering Bosnian once again shot past De Gae and into the United net to make the score an unbelievable six one. An incredible game by an incredible team and the noisy neighbours had thoroughly humiliated United.
Joe Hart – 8.5
Didn’t have a chance with the goal. Other than that never looked like being beaten.
Micah Richards – 10
His best performance in a City shirt. Has to be the best right back in the country on current form.
Vincent Kompany – 8.5
Booked for a foul in the first half but did everthing else right for ninety minutes.
Joleon Lescott – 8.5
Didn’t put a foot wrong and kept the United forwards thoroughly shackled.
Gael Clichy – 8.5
An accomplished performance both in attack and defence.
Gareth Barry – 9
Played all over the pitch. Helped out in defence and made some fantastic passes.
Yaya Toure – 8.5
Surging runs, bullish tackles and a couple of good shots.
James Milner – 10
Ran his heart out played brilliantly and had a hand in a number of the goals. Has to be a starter from now on. An example of the never say die attitude City now possess.
David Silva – 10
Created space where there was none and played some of the most sublime passes you are ever likely to see, capped of by the pass of the season for Dzeko’s last goal.
Sergio Aguero – 8
Didn’t have his best game in a City shirt but still scored. Seemed to want one touch too many.
Mario Balotelli – 9
Scored two goals and took a lot of nasty tackles without reacting. Has been asked to stand up and be counted and he has done that with aplomb.
Dzeko – 9.5
Could have scored with his first touch and could have had a hat trick in his short time on the pitch. Outstanding performance.
Nasri – 8
Came on and simply slotted in. Passed United to pieces.
Came on too late to mark.
Roberto Mancini – 10
Changed the team and won the tactical battle with Ferguson. True he was helped by the sending off, but everything he touched today turned to gold. His team has now won by four goals in three away games and scored thirty two goals in nine games, a Premier League record.