MAN UNITED 1, MAN CITY 6.
Mario Balotelli produced fireworks on the pitch as opposed to off it as Manchester City caused an extraordinary upset with the margin of victory against United.
City’s 6-1 win was United’s heaviest derby defeat since January 1926, when it was ironically exactly the same scoreline, and sent out a clear message that Roberto Mancini’s side is a genuine title contender.
And it was wild Italian Balotelli, who two days earlier had caused a fire by setting off fireworks inside his home, who ignited the touchpaper.
Balotelli, later described by City manager Mancini as a “crazy guy”, scored City’s first two goals to earn a lavish tribute.
Mancini said: “Mario played very well and I would say he is in the top five players in the world.
“He is a crazy, but I love him and he is a good guy.”
Mancini played down the victory which was the heaviest of Sir Alex Ferguson’s managerial career and almost matched United’s biggest-ever loss of 7-0.
The City manager played down the significance of the defeat saying only three points were at stake. He added it is premature to talk about their title prospects with 29 league games remaining.
“There is a long way to go and there will be four or five teams who can win the title. United are too strong to let this affect them,” he said.
Mancini added that in his view United are still ahead of them, even though City now hold a five-point lead at the top of the table.
He says that will only change when City win the title, but to do that they must strive to improve further.
Mancini added that Jonny Evans’ sending off early in the second half changed the complexion of the game as United disintegrated after being reduced to 10 men.
Before that, however, City had established a 1-0 first-half lead and had hardly been troubled.
The breakthrough came midway through the opening half when David Silva and James Milner combined to set up Balotelli who placed a shot from the left of the box low to the left of keeper David De Gea. And the Italian then lifted his shirt to reveal the slogan on his vest ‘Why always me?
United’s hopes of extending a 37-match unbeaten record at Old Trafford stretching back 18 months disappeared less than two minutes after the restart when Evans was sent off for hauling back Balotelli on the edge of the box.
It was a clear goalscoring position and referee Mark Clattenburg had no choice but brandish a red card.
City doubled their advantage on the hour when Silva’s exquisite pass released Milner whose low, right-wing cross was virtually walked into the net by Balotelli. It was his fifth goal of the season.
United’s defence was carved open again when Micah Richards’ overlapping run and low cross was converted by Sergio Aguero from within the six-yard box for his 10th of the season.
Darren Fletcher pulled a goal back for United with 10 minutes left with a screamer from 25 yards into the top corner after playing a return pass with Javier Hernandez.
United sensed a way back into the game but, as they attacked, City picked them off as they made their extra man count as the hosts conceded three more goals in an amazing finish.
Substitute Edin Dzeko added a fourth goal with a tap in after Joleon Lescott returned a far-post corner back across the face of goal.
Dzeko made a break before releasing Silva whose shot went through the legs of De Gea and in stoppage time Dzeke added a second goal after bursting through on goal.
In fact Dzeko, only introduced after 70 minutes, missed two conceivably easier chances as City’s margin of victory could have been even wider.
Ferguson described United’s approach as “suicidal and madness” after they chased a way back into the game.
He said: “When we were 1-0 down with 10 men we had two or three good openings which encouraged us to have a go.
“Our two full backs were playing as wingers and it was often three versus two at the back which was suicidal and madness.
“Sometimes common sense is needed. When it was 3-1 and 4-1, may be we ought to have settled for that.
“We will recover from the defeat, but it will have an impact. There is embarrassment in the dressing room.”