MAN CITY 2, MAN UNITED 3
Robin van Persie scored a dramatic injury time matchwinning goal on his Manchester derby debut as United opened a six-point lead over City at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Dutchman van Persie saved the blushes of the Reds who had thrown away a two-goal lead as City fought to preserve their unbeaten home league record which had stretched back 37 games and almost two years.
In a pulsating derby, City were stunned as United opened a two-goal lead inside half an hour as Wayne Rooney twice found the net as he reached a landmark.
Rooney’s brace brought up 150 Premier League goals as he became the youngest of the seven players to reach this milestone at 27 years and 46 days.
City staged a spirited second-half fightback as Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta made it 2-2 with United hanging on for a point at the death until van Persie 92nd minute free kick snatched victory.
It was sad such a stunning spectacle was overshadowed by ugly scenes at the end when Rio Ferdinand sustained a cut above his eye after a coin was thrown at him from the stands and a supporter also ran on to the pitch to confront Ferdinand. And there were disturbing behaviour at the end as rival fans clashed.
United’s victory went some way towards atoning the events of last season when City’s league double over the Reds – including their 6-1 victory at Old Trafford – proved instrumental in the championship going to the blue half of Manchester with the last kick of a dramatic campaign.
Sir Alex Ferguson was understandably elated saying the victory was thoroughly deserved.
The Reds’ manager said: “There have not been many more dramatic days and today was special as City had not lost at home for two years.
“It ought to have been 3-0 through a perfectly onside goal and City went to the other end to score and make it 2-1. Those things can kill you and are a kick in the teeth.
“City came back fighting like hell and gambled on playing three strikers at the end. Up to that point, we were the better side.”
Ferguson added the trouble at the end was “unfortunate” saying these things ought not to happen.
He said: “The same thing happened at Chelsea which was masked by all the other things. We could have done without it.
“At Chelsea, we had a seat thrown on to the pitch, coins, lighters and nothing was done about it. It’s a problem.
“As for today, I am going to dismiss it from my mind as it was such a good game. You couldn’t take your eyes off it and it was so engrossing.”
As for City manager Roberto Mancini said his side didn’t deserve to lose.
He said: “We dominated the second half and I am disappointed to have lost the game. For 20 minutes they didn’t touch the ball and the first chance they got they scored a goal.
“We recovered well and dominated the second half. We showed we are a really strong team and we can win the title again.
“There is a moment when you lose at home, and it happened today, but the season is a long one and I am sure we can still win the double this year.”
City had Mario Balottelli in the starting line up ahead of Carlos Tevez while United welcomed back Antonio Valencia after injury as they had him and Ashley Young out wide in a 4-5-1 formation with Rooney again in midfield.
There was a feisty opening which was sparked by Michael Carrick going through the back of Sergio Aguero inside the first 30 seconds.
Balotelli had an early chance for City as his 30-yard free kick brought a decent save from David de Gea.
But it was United who took the lead in the 16th minute when Young broke down the left and cut the ball back for Rooney to score with a shot low to the right of Joe Hart.
And City’s afternoon got a whole lot worse when they lost captain Vincent Kompany through injury in the 21st minute.
Aguero beat five opponents before forcing a decent save from de Gea as City pressed for an equaliser.
It was United who doubled their advantage just short of the half hour when Rooney struck again. Valencia and Rafael combined superbly on the right and from the latter’s low cut back Rooney swept home a shot low past Hart.
United lost Jonny Evans through injury soon after the restart while Balotelli was replaced by Tevez six minutes into the half.
The Reds were wrongly denied a third goal just short of the hour. Robin van Persie’s curled effort struck the far upright before Young slotted in the rebound.
The referee’s assistant flagged for offside, but replays showed Young was level and the goal ought to have stood.
It could have proved the defining moment in the match as within 60 seconds City had halved the deficit.
Goalkeeper de Gea pulled off a brilliant double save to deny Aguero and Silva before Yaya Toure fired home at the third time of asking.
United were lucky not to concede a penalty when substitute Chris Smalling clearly handled while de Gea deflected a Silva shot on to the crossbar.
City’s pressure eventually paid off when they equalised in the 86th minute. A corner from Tevez was cleared by van Persie to the edge of the box where Zabaleta found the net with a fierce, low drive.
There was to be one final twist, however, as United snatched victory through an injury-time goal from van Persie, his 14th of the season.
Rafael was fouled by Tevez on the right edge of the box and van Persie curled in a delightful left-foot shot which deflected off Samir Nasri who was on the end of the defensive wall.