Moment of sheer quality gives Sir Alex Ferguson’s side all three points

By Josh Clarke

Wayne Rooney sent out an emphatic reminder of his abilities when his sensational bicycle kick granted all three points to Manchester United in their battle with Manchester City.
Nani gave the hosts the lead when he slotted past Joe Hart after showing excellent composure when being put through on goal, only for David Silva to unwittingly equalise when Edin Dzeko’s shot went in off the Spaniard.

The decisive moment of the game came when a deflected cross dropped to Rooney just inside the box and his acrobatic overhead kick and was sent flying into Hart’s top corner in a moment that will be forever remembered in Manchester United folklore.

The result sees the Manchester clubs sandwich second-placed Arsenal and though City are eight points behind their cross-city rivals having played a game more, they remain primed for an assault on Champions League qualification.

Fresh from his midweek heroics for Spain, Silva provided the game’s first spark of inspiration. The mercurial wideman picked up the ball on the right flank and knocked the ball inside to Yaya Toure. Silva then ghosted inside and some smart interchange between Toure and Carlos Tevez saw the ball slotted into the path of Silva’s third man run. As he bore down on Edwin van der Sar’s goal, Silva could only toe poke the ball agonisingly wide of the far post.

As the hosts failed to capitalise on a succession of corner kicks, the game swung end to end in a manner that belied the defensive-minded 4-5-1 formations both teams were set up in. City had the more promising of the game’s early possession but Nani issued a reminder of his goal threat when he jinked in from the right, in the way that is quickly becoming his trademark, and blazed over from around 25 yards.

City continued to show more innovative use of the ball in their build up play, with Silva the chief architect. He again unlocked the hosts’ defence, which clearly missed the marshalling skills of Rio Ferdinand, with a reverse pass, though Toure could only rifle his cross into the chest of Chris Smalling.

With both teams’ front men largely anonymous in the opening exchanges, Rooney cut a particularly frustrated figure. The lone striker became embroiled in an ongoing petty altercation with Vincent Kompany after the towering centre-half was shown a yellow card for coming through the back of his opponent. Over the next five minutes, words were said and handbags were raised, with the impressive Andre Marriner, who had allowed the game to maintain its flow with a few well-judged advantages, having to tell both to drop it.

Genuine penetration was few and far between as both teams seemed content to keep the ball and not put too much on the line. When Ryan Giggs found himself in good space on the left, his ball into the far post was met by the onrushing Darren Fletcher who could only send his header comfortably into the welcoming arms of Joe Hart.

This acted as a catalyst for Manchester United eking out a marginal stranglehold on the game, without really ever breaching the opposition back four. Hart made another easy save when a promising Nani strike from distance was diverted into exactly where the goalkeeper was standing and then from the other flank, Nani fired over from similar range.

Nani made no mistake, though, when he was presented with the hosts’ first clear-cut chance of the game, five minutes before half-time. For all their bluster, it was route one football that granted United the lead. A long Van Der Sar kick was knocked onto Giggs after Rooney challenged in the air and his excellent first time pass matched the exact stride pattern of Nani as he ran beyond the shoulder of Lescott. The winger then showed great composure to bring the ball down under pressure and sidefoot it past Hart to wheel away and celebrate with his usual acrobatics.

The hosts finished the first half firmly in the ascendancy having visibly rattled their rivals’ cage.

City began the second half with the same probing inquisition with which they started the first. Toure’s heavy touch in the box prompted the rangy midfielder to throw himself to the ground in search of a penalty though Marriner pointedly dismissed his appeal.

The visitors shortly brought on Shaun Wright-Phillips for makeshift left-winger Aleksander Kolarov and he almost spontaneously made his presence felt but slipped on queue when Tevez’s ball had looked to have slid him through.

Kompany went from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of 10 seconds after his wonderfully timed challenge on Rooney in the box looked to have quelled a United counter-attack. However, upon resuming verticality the Belgian gifted the ball to Nani on the edge of the area, who could only drag wide with his left foot.

As he looked to get back into the game Mancini sent on Dzeko to partner the ineffectual Tevez at the expense of James Milner. This strategy soon proved a stroke of genius. A surging Wright-Phillips run down the right saw him whip the ball in and Dzeko’s strike went past the helpless van der Sar via Silva’s backside to snatch an equaliser.

Clearly not content with a draw Sir Alex Ferguson sent on his ace card, the 19-goal Dimitar Berbatov, matching the 4-4-2 adopted by City. This did little to deter the visitors who grew in confidence with their goal and consequently pushed forward with renewed vigour.

Nani continued to look the most animated player on the pitch when he picked the ball up in his own half after Rooney was clattered, waltzed past three City defenders with some smart step-overs and fizzed a left footed shot just wide of the upright.

In a moment that seemed fitting in a game of such magnitude Wayne Rooney put the hosts back in front. Nani’s cross from the right took a nick off Pablo Zabaleta which looked to have rendered it fruitless. Rooney, however, adapted his shape and sprung into the air to dispatch a truly spectacular bicycle kick into Joe Hart’s top corner.

City searched in vain for another equaliser but it proved not to be their day as United held out to seal a famous and title-defining victory.

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