[Premier League] Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
ManCity: Sergio Aguero (63)
It was City who earned the bragging rights in the 168th Manchester derby on Sunday – through Sergio Aguero’s second-half winner - despite the best efforts of ten-man United at the Etihad Stadium.
The Reds were forced to play over half the game with one man less than the Blues after Chris Smalling was dismissed for two bookable offences. Aguero netted the vital strike just after the hour but United made it a real battle for the hosts in spite of the numerical disadvantage.
There was good and bad news for Louis van Gaal when it came to his starting XI. Club captain Wayne Rooney returned after a three-game suspension but Radamel Falcao missed out through injury, as did Rafael who picked up a knock in training on Thursday. Fit-again Antonio Valencia stepped in to take his place at right-back, while Marouane Fellaini started his second game in a row, alongside Daley Blind in defensive midfield. Further forward, Rooney, Angel Di Maria, Adnan Januzaj and Robin van Persie took up the mantle in attack.
City meanwhile had their own fitness issues with playmaker-in-chief David Silva unavailable and Aleksandar Kolarov having to pull out after being injured during the warm-up - Gael Clichy came in for him at left-back.
It was United who had the earliest sight of goal, inside the opening 60 seconds, when Marcos Rojo jumped to meet a Di Maria free-kick and head goalwards. Joe Hart made the save but the flag was raised for offside.
The opening exchanges were fairly equal thereafter with both sides enjoying little spells of good possession. Aguero looked lively for City and it was he who forced David De Gea into his first save of the game on eight minutes when he created space to shoot from a tight angle. At the other end Januzaj could have done better when he was well found by van Persie’s knock-down but he dragged his effort wide.
Aguero continued to look menacing and soon after Rojo had done well to force him out wide for an effort off target, the Argentinian attacker set up Jesus Navas in the best move of the game thus far. Thankfully De Gea stood tall and beat Navas’ strike away. Seconds later Fernando found Aguero, free in the box, with a sublime pass but the striker’s half-volley was bravely blocked by De Gea as he raced from his goal.
De Gea might have been the busier of the two goalkeepers but the Reds looked comfortable. However, the game was turned on its head six minutes before the break when Smalling was given his marching orders after collecting a second yellow card for a late tackle on James Milner. The defender could have no complaints for either booking – he had collected a cheap caution minutes earlier for stopping Hart kicking the ball up field. Januzaj was sacrificed as Michael Carrick, making his first appearance of the season, came on to fill in at centre-back, with United also surviving a couple of penalty scares in the dying moments of the half.
City began the second period at full pelt with the Reds forced into some last-ditch defending from the off. United’s task was made all the harder on 56 minutes when Rojo was stretchered off which what looked like a very painful shoulder injury. That blow for the club brought a derby debut for 19-year-old defender Paddy McNair.
Unfortunately, McNair and co. could do nothing to stop Aguero giving City the lead on 63 minutes. Toure found Clichy with a pass which eluded Di Maria and the defender crossed for Aguero to blast home from close range.
Firm hands were required from De Gea when he dived to claim Stevan Jovetic’s curling effort soon after, while van Persie gave Hart a fright when he twisted and turned after receiving a throw-in on 71 minutes and forced the England stopper to save with his legs.
After Navas has struck the post for City it was United’s turn to pile on the pressure, despite being a man short. Rooney powered through the centre into the box but had his shot blocked. The ball dropped to van Persie who also had an attempt closed down, but the Dutchman poked the ball out to Di Maria who forced Hart into a fine save. Seconds later Fellaini headed wide when it looked easier to score.
The Reds made a fight of it until the very death - and fully deserved something from the game - but it was the Blues who ended the match as derby victors.
Manchester United: De Gea; Valencia, Smalling, Rojo (McNair 56), Shaw; Blind, Fellaini, Januzaj (Carrick 43); Rooney, Di Maria, van Persie (Wilson 82).
Subs not used: Lindegaard, Fletcher, Herrera, Mata.
Manchester City: Hart, Zabaleta, Demichelis, Kompany, Clichy, Milner (Nasri 70), Fernando, Navas, Toure, Jovetic (Dzeko 71), Aguero (Fernandinho 84).
Subs not used: Caballero, Sagna, Boyata, Sinclair.