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Sunday, 30 November 2008
Cashed-up and confident Manchester City hosted their cross-city rivals in the most keenly anticipated Mancunian derby for quite some time. Mark Hughes' men, hoping to replicate the first stanza of last season's double, were buoyed by the return of Robinho, who missed their midweek UEFA Cup fixture.
Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov started up top for Manchester United, and it was they who caused most of the problems in the opening 45 minutes.
After a lively opening exchange, the first chance fell to Rooney in the eighth minute. Ji-sung Park's low cross from the right took a slight defelction and found the England forward unmarked in the box. His shot was fumbled by Joe Hart, but the City defence managed to clear the danger temporarily. Rooney had another chance moments later, but some strong defending from Vincent Kompany denied him a shooting chance.
The Red Devils were passing their hosts off the park early on, with Michael Carrick orchestrating some nice one-touch moves and spreading the play with ease as he brought his attacking team-mates into the game.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be disappointed not to have scored after13th-minute corner. The Portuguese forward outjumped his marker from a corner and made good contact with his header, which flew comfortably over.
Neither side wasted time invoking the spirit of derby day, flying in with robust challenges from the off. Micah Richards poleaxed Nemanja Vidic on the edge of United's area before Darren Fletcher brought down Shaun Wright-Phillips. Rafael da Silva then saw yellow for knocking over his compatriot Robinho in the middle of the park.
United continued to have the better of the play, and it was their young, recently cautioned right-back proving the impetus. His 22nd-minute cross found Berbatov, whose well-weighted header forced Hart into a one-handed save. Shortly after, the Bulgarian striker put Fletcher through with a lovely back-heel. The Scot layed off to Ronaldo on the edge of the box, but the 23-year-old uncharastericially blasted his cross out of play under pressure from Richards.
The chances continued to come for Sir Alex Ferguson's men. A half-saved shot fell to Patrice Evra, whose right-foot shot flashed just over the bar. A square ball to Berbatov may have been more prudent.
City's midfielders were being forced deeper into their own half as the crosses continued to come in from either flank - and yet it was they who came closest to scoring, with their very first chance on the half-hour. Javier Garrido's floated ball was half-cleared before a mix-up in United defence. Stephen Ireland pounced, bundling his 20-yard effort into the upright. That spurred the Citizens on as the visitors were pressed for the first time in the game. Fletcher was booked after hacking down Wright-Phillips 30 yards out, but Robinho's low free-kick hooked well wide.
United were still dangerous on the counter, and Rooney's clever flick allowed Carrick to amble forward and pass to Berbatov 18 yards out - but the shot didn't test the 'keeper. Evra and Ronaldo linked well down the left soon after and the resulting ball in forced City to concede a corner after a hectic scrap; Rooney's corner didn't get past Stephen Ireland, though.
Robinho nearly latched onto Dietmar Hamman's but moments later Rooney made it 1-0. Some great battling from Park allowed Carrick to hit a fierce shot at Hart, who paddled the ball straight into Rooney's path. The 23-year-old made no mistake, poking home from five yards to net his 100th United goal.
City pressed for an equaliser, and they nearly got one through Benjani. Kompany's pass was touched on by Ireland, and the Zimbabwean peeled off his marker and shot inches wide of Van der Sar's left-hand post.
City boss Hughes acted immediately by bringing on Elano and Pablo Zabaleta at the break for Hamann and Vassel, with Kompany moving into midfield and Richards replacing him at centre-back. The effect was instant as the home side pressed forward with some smooth moves through the middle and won a free-kick and a corner in the first three minutes after the restart.
A nice build-up from Robinho and Ireland in the 50th minute eventually ended up at Kompany's feet, and the Belgian was unlucky not to find the net with a 25-yard scorcher.
United threatened on the counter though, and only a last-ditch tackle from Richard Dunne halted Park after he was played in by Rooney. But City were equally dangerous on the break, and Benjani's first-time shot hit the side-netting after an incisive run and pass from Wright-Phillips. Blisteringly quick play from both sides.
Again the England winger ran the ball upfield after robbing Evra in the box in the 59th minute, and he forced Ronaldo to make a bookable tackle. The Ballon d'Or elect was lucky Howard Webb shrugged off his sarcastic applause. Two minutes later Fletcher was equally fortunate not to receive a second yellow after clattering Robinho; Elano's effort from the resulting free-kick was reprehensible.
Berbatov dallied when one-on-one with Dunne five minutes later and his shot was blocked by the back-tracking Kompany, allowing City to counter quickly once more. Evra brought down Wright-Phillips 25 yards out and Garrido's dipping set-piece was curled agonisingly past the post.
And then Ronaldo was off. A United break resulted in a corner, and the Seleccao superstar rose to head - but, incredibly, stuck both hands in front of his face and handled the ball. It was an act of madness, and rightfully punished with a second yellow.
City looked to immediately exploit their one-man advantage. Wright-Phillips continued to wreak havoc down the right wing, he and Ireland teaming up time and again to probe deep into the United territory. City's final ball lacked a bit of polish, however.
Through Fletcher and Carrick, United began to regain some sort of grip on the game as it entered the last 10 minutes. City were relentess as every attacking opportunity, but still no clear-cut chance for a leveller arose.
City pressed until deep into stoppage time, with Joe Hart coming up for a 93rd-minute corner. A goal-line clearance fell to Giggs, who passed to Rooney, who shot at the open goal from distance - but Hart recovered brilliantly to make a back-hand save on the line.
1-0 it ended to the visitors, but City can feel aggrieved to walk away with nothing.
Manchester City 0
Manchester United 1 (Rooney 42')
Man City: Hart, Richards (Sturridge 76'), Dunne, Kompany, Garrido, Wright-Phillips, Ireland, Hamman (Elano 46'), Vassell (Zabaleta 46'), Robinho, Benjani
Man United: Van der Sar, Rafael, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, Park, Fletcher, Carrick, Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov (Giggs 83')
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