Neil Dickson making write up
Kompany header seals the day
City held their nerve and completed the double over United to re-take top spot in Premier League.
Now if Roberto Mancini’s men match United in the last two games the likelihood is that they will be crowned champions for the first time in 44 years.
The points and possibly the destination of the title were decided, fittingly, by Vincent Kompany’s towering first half header.
Depending on where you do your reading this coruscating episode of neighbours was watched by between 300 and 600million sets of eyes and worth between £200 and £500million.
The mother of all derbies, the demolition derby, titanic, epic, landscape-changing, momentous, tumultuous, gripping, huge, colossal were just some of the scores of adjectives used to describe the game in the wall-to-wall build-up.
So did it live up to the hype? How could any match live up to such lofty expectations? But right now City fans don’t care.
All the ingredients were there. There was some serious retro anger and enmity in the stands, the noise levels exceeded all decent limits set by the local authority and a galaxy of stars strutted the verdant green stage as if they owned it.
But by and large neither side found the fluency, touch and killer instinct that hard earned City the best home record in the Premier League and United the best away record.
In front of the game’s great and good, the Etihad Stadium rocked like it has never done before. This was English tribalism at its most raw. Every blue and red sinew was strained in a bid to deliver the victory that the rival factions packed into the stands demanded.
Football purity was not on the invitee list to this most local of parties beamed to a global audience that may well have been bemused and amused in equal measure by the bile and the ditties echoing around the stadium and duelling for attention.
Neither manager sprang any real surprises with their starting elevens. Roberto Mancini stuck to the side that won at Wolves so resisting the temptation to bring back his blond bombshell Mario Balotelli. Instead the Italian striker who began the six-goal avalanche at Old Trafford back in October was on the bench.
Alex Ferguson, who knew a draw would be to his side’s advantage in the race for the crown, took a cautious approach. He left most of his attacking arsenal on the bench asking Wayne Rooney to carry the goal threat.
His plan worked a treat in the opening 44 minutes with United content to block avenues and sit back inviting the home side to find a way through if they could.
In truth despite the best efforts of the fans, the impressive Samir Nasri and two chances fired wide by Kun Aguero, watched by his father-in-law Diego Maradona , it was tepid stuff. Tepid, that is, until Kompany rose like the colossus he is to head home from David Silva’s right flank corner.
The second half was always going to be more open and the goal brought an improvement in City’s confidence levels and passing. United brought on Danny Welbeck and the whole game had a dollop more purpose and poise.
DeGea kicked away a Yaya Toure effort as the intensity grew. The Blues looked at their best – and the Reds at their most vulnerable – when they ran at the visitors from deep.
But Carlos Tevez ran out of steam which necessitated a change of formation with Nigel De Jong deployed to stifle United’s sudden attack intent and Toure pushed up to support Aguero.
The last ten minutes were open and angry. The managers had a less than edifying spat on the touchline but still City pressed for the second clinching goal and Toure went close with a shot from the edge of the box that skimmed the post.
Now everyone has to forget this win and concentrate on Newcastle because nothing less than two wins is likely to be good enough. No more twists please!