MAN CITY 1, MAN UNITED 0
Manchester City ended a run of three straight defeats with a hard-earned victory in the derby at the Etihad Stadium.
While there was joy for the blue half of Manchester, the Reds’ defeat confirmed their worst start to a season for 28 years, even though their starting line up was worth £241million, the most expensive in the history of the Premier League.
Sergio Aguero was City’s matchwinner, though it was a struggle against United who had to play more than half the match with 10 men following Chris Smalling’s sending off.
The defender’s two senseless bookings in the space of eight first-half minutes clearly altered the dynamics of the derby as City recorded a fourth straight league win against their rivals, something they have not achieved since 1970.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini pinpointed the victory and also the clean sheet in the derby as being all-important.
“We played very well until we scored the goal then we lost possession and dropped deeper from our high position,” he said.
Pellegrini added that City ought to have been awarded at least one of three possible spot kicks in the game, the one when Yaya Toure was challenged by Marcos Rojo,
“It should have been a penalty and sending off, but it was important to win and not let those things disturb your mind,” he explained.
United manager Louis van Gaal praised the battling qualities of his 10-man team.
“In the second half you saw the will power of my team which was unbelievable and we could have scored, but we still only have 13 points from 10 games which is not good enough.
“We were close against Chelsea last week and also in this game, but not close enough, and we still need to make steps.”
Van Gaal explained that Smalling had given a “humble” apology for his reckless dismissal.
He continued: “I didn’t see the first one but, when you have a yellow card, you have to deal with it and not do what he did.
“It was not very smart, what more can I say?”
City, who recorded their sixth win in the last seven derbies, made three changes from the side beaten at West Ham in their last league game.
Eliaquim Mangala, Edin Dzeko and the injured David Silva were replaced by Martin Demichelis, James Milner and Stevan Jovetic.
It ought to have been four changes had Aleksandar Kolarov not been injured in the warm up and replaced by Gael Clichy.
United, without an away win all season, recalled Wayne Rooney after suspension and Antonio Valencia who replaced Juan Mata and the injured Rafael.
After a low-key opening in terms of chances, City started to open up United as Jesus Navas and Aguero both forced excellent saves from David De Gea in quick succession.
And the balance of play tilted even more the way of City when United were reduced to 10 men six minutes before the break when Smalling was sent off for collecting two bookings in rapid succession for blocking a clearance by keeper Joe Hart and then for scything down James Milner.
There was controversy deep into stoppage time when City had a shout for a penalty waved aside after a last-ditch challenge by Marcos Rojo on Yaya Toure. Had it been given, United would have been reduced to nine men as the Argentine was clean through on goal.
It was the second of three penalty shouts City had, all for challenges of Aguero whose tumbles were theatrical which probably influenced referee Michael Oliver’s decision to wave play on each time.
United suffered another central-defensive blow early in the second half when Rojo was taken off on a stretcher with a dislocated shoulder as he was replaced by youngster Paddy McNair following a lengthy stoppage.
It left United with a makeshift back four which contained winger Valencia at right back, midfield man Michael Carrick and rookie McNair at centre back.
City’s pressure eventually told as they took the lead in the 63rd minute when Clichy cut the ball back from the left for Aguero to fire home high past De Gea from 10 yards for his 12th goal of the season.
They went for a second goal to seal victory and were unfortunate as Jovetic was denied by a super stop by De Gea while Navas’ angled drive struck the upright.
United came within a whisker of equalising after a barn-storming run by Rooney before van Persie set up Di Maria who low shot was superbly saved by Joe Hart low to his right.
Yaya Toure had two chances late in the game to seal victory, but was unable to hit the target as it ensured it was a nervous finish for City despite their numerical advantage.