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Sergio Aguero inflicted more pain on Manchester United to delay their hopes of early title celebrations. The man whose goal won the Barclays Premier League for Manchester City last season struck 12 minutes from time to give his side back-to-back derby wins at Old Trafford for the first time in 41 years.
United's first defeat since November also ended their 18-match unbeaten run and cut their lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League to 12 points. With seven matches remaining, it remains a nigh-on impossible task for Roberto Mancini’s men to retain the title, but, after James Milner's second-half opener had been cancelled out by a Vincent Kompany own goal, it gave credence to the City manager's claim that United did not merit such a large advantage.
City were quicker to settle, exploiting an open approach from the hosts who, including Ryan Giggs, had five forwards in their starting line-up. Milner and Samir Nasri both had opportunities to be the first player to beat David de Gea in seven Barclays Premier League games, but City's best opportunity was denied them by a tremendous intervention from Phil Jones.
Labelled “an animal” by Sir Alex Ferguson in his club's official magazine, Jones owed his start at the centre of United’s defence to the absences of Nemanja Vidic, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans. Ferguson had cause to be thankful as Nasri peeled onto Rafael Da Silva, the latest attempt to isolate a United full-back, and nodded Kompany's long pass down for Carlos Tevez. The former Old Trafford favourite was just about to shoot when in nipped Jones to make a good clearance.
On his return from a groin strain, Wayne Rooney was not spotted by Danny Welbeck after embarking on a blistering burst from midfield. Robin van Persie also skied an attempt to break his nine-match scoring drought.
It was not until the end of the first half, when Rafael ran on to Van Persie's flick and lifted the ball onto the angle of post and bar that United really threatened.
Within five minutes of the restart they fell behind. Giggs’s backheel gifted possession to Gareth Barry deep inside United territory. The visitors' rapid response allowed them to tee up Milner, whose low drive flicked off Jones and flew into the bottom corner.
United pride demanded a quick response. And they got exactly that as Van Persie fizzed a free-kick to the far post. As Joe Hart failed to make any connection, Jones got his head to the ball, although it was not directed goalwards, instead striking Kompany on the back to go in.
Yet City were the ones who responded more positively. After Nasri had fired over, the man he replaced, Aguero, put them back in front. It was similar to his decisive goal last May as the striker ghosted past Jones and Rio Ferdinand before firing into the roof of De Gea's net.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson: "It was a very intense game with the two best teams in the country. We were quite dangerous a few times on the counter-attack and we maybe could have done better, but in the second half we were the better team and were unlucky to lose it.
"I know Aguero is a fantastic finisher but we gave him a lot of room. I was pleased with the performance in the second half. We did really well coming back from 1-0 down. There were lots of plus signs, our form is good, I have no complaints. If you look at the whole thing, it's not a bad day for us in terms of the performance level. You don't want to a lose a derby game, but we're OK.
"It's a 12-point lead and there are only seven games left. Each game that goes along you whittle them down. It's Stoke on Sunday which will be a big effort and we'll have a go."
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini: "It demonstrated tonight that we are not [15 points worse]. We are happy, it is normal, you play football, we are happy because we won. We play football to win.
"Every time we play United...also the game at the Etihad, we dominated and lost, but this is possible, it is football. We played very well, we deserved to win, but we conceded the goal because we didn't pay attention and didn't mark very well. We wanted to play football, we had the ball, kept it and played better. It was important for us, we showed we didn't deserve to stay 15 points behind."
|12 May 2013||v Swansea (H)|
|22 Apr 2013||v Aston Villa (H)|
|14 Apr 2013||v Stoke (A)|
|19 May 2013||v West Brom (A)|
|28 Apr 2013||v Arsenal (A)|
|17 Apr 2013||v West Ham (A)|