Manchester United ran away with a 4-2 victory against Manchester City on Sunday, April 12 at Old Trafford to end dismal derby sequence of defeats and further dent its City rival’s Barclay Premiership title quest.
The Manuel Pellegriniled Manchester City had arrived Old Trafford, with the sole intent of recovering from successive away defeats at Liverpool, Burnley and Crystal Palace that left them trailing league leaders, Chelsea by 12 points from 31 matches. But, by the time the final whistle was blown by Mark Clattenberg, the champion’s hope of retaining the coveted trophy had been shattered by a rejuvenated United.
The thrilling derby which started barely an hour after Chelsea grabbed a late goal against relegation threatened Queens Park Rangers in another London derby to go seven points clear at the top with a game in hand, started in high tempo with Sergio Aguero opening and closing the account for City in the 8th and 88th minutes respectively.
But, it was the host who seized the momentum in-between, hitting four goals past their rivals. Manchester United’s revival was kick-started by Ashley Young who scored in the 14th minute to cancel out Aguero’s opener before Marounne Fellaini put the Red Devils ahead in the 27th minute. Second half goals from Juan Mata in the 67th and Chris Smalling’s 74th strike sealed a memorable victory that handed Louis Van Gaal side the bragging rights over their neighbours, at least for this term.
While the victory puts Manchester United firmly on course for a return to the UEFA Champions League next season, the capitulation puts Manchester City’s title bid as well as UCL qualification in jeopardy as Liverpool could narrow the gap to just four points if they beat Newcastle United at Anfield.
Analysts say, missing out on the Champions League is the unthinkable scenario for City and Pellegrini, who had won the previous four Manchester derbies – including three at Old Trafford -before his side declined alarmingly after a perfect start. And the Old Trafford defeat which signals that City are in serious need of reconstruction of the expensively assembled squad may be the last straw for embattled Pellegrini who has failed to lead the team to success this term.
Embattled Pellegrini and his team can take solace from having four of their last six games at home but with title defence in ruins and speculation surrounding the Chilean’s future still rife, the battle for top four may not be a smooth ride.
By Olisemeka Obeche