BEST OF THE MANSOUR ERA: City Run Riot At Old Trafford

Throughout June on Typical City, we’re looking at some of the best matches Manchester City have played in the Sheikh Mansour-era. Day by day, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to some of the classic encounters the Blues have had since the 2008 takeover – you can view the rest of the featured games on the Best of the Mansour Era page.

For the penultimate day in our Best of the Mansour Era series, we’re looking at one game that will never be forgotten by Manchester City fans. A ding-dong battle between the Blues and rivals Manchester United would go on all season – but Roberto Mancini’s side scored one of their biggest and most memorable victories of the season in the October as they headed to Old Trafford…

Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City
Sunday 23 October 2011
City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Milner (Kolarov 89), Barry, Silva, Y Toure, Aguero (Nasri 75), Balotelli (Dzeko 70).
Unused: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, K Toure, De Jong
Goals: Balotelli (22, 60), Aguero (69), Dzeko (89, 90+3), Silva (90+1)

When Manchester City went to Old Trafford in October 2011, it was tight between the two teams. By the end of the game, the gap was huge – and the Blues had pulled off one of the most important and humiliating victories in a game that would help considerably in landing their first Premier League title. City were top of the table by two points and could have been overtake by second-placed United with a win. They were travelling to the home of the champions, still fancied by many to retain their crown. The visitors ended up sending a huge message to the football world about their intentions that season.

Nobody would have been expecting the full time result when the Blues opened the scoring on 22 minutes. To that point, United had had the better of the play – though had been unable to trouble Joe Hart in the City goal – and most of the game had been played in the City half. Roberto Mancini’s side had been comfortable, but they themselves hadn’t been a threat, beyond a mazy run from David Silva. The Spaniard kept possession well under pressure from five of the home players, before a cross was just too high for Sergio Aguero.

But when Silva got on the ball a short time later, he was able to find a decisive pass through to James Milner on the left side of the box. As it headed for the by-line, Milner wrapped his foot around the ball and pulled it back to where Mario Balotelli was waiting in space. A beautiful side-foot effort found the bottom corner – and the Italian celebrated by lifting his shirt over his head to revealed his now famous “Why Always Me?” t-shirt. It came days after the latest bizarre news story about him broke – this one of a fire in his bathroom, after an evening involving indoor fireworks went wrong.

It was the goal that swung the balance of the tie. For the remainder of the first half, the Blues were on top and could have extended their lead on a number of occasions. Gael Clichy drove at the United defence, but couldn’t find a finish, while Sergio Aguero hesitated too long inside the box and his shot from close range was blocked.

A few minutes into the second half, though, the picture of the game changed. Balotelli found himself goal side of Johnny Evans – who dragged the striker to the ground. The referee had no option but to show the centre-back a straight red card and it gave City a real chance to punish their opponents. The resulting free kick was missed, before United were lucky not to concede a penalty when Micah Richards was bundled over in the box.

The chances were flowing. Aguero slipped as he attempted to volley Balotelli’s cross to the edge of the box, before Richards side-stepped a challenge inside the area to find room to shoot on his left side. It was well off target. Aguero couldn’t latch on to Milner’s low cross through the box, as the striker slid in. It was one-way traffic.

United held out at 1-0 until the hour mark. Milner, Silva and Richards combined brilliantly on the right to allow space for the English midfielder to drill a low cross into the six-yard box. It was impossible to cut out and left Balotelli to smash home at the back post. The scoreline was beginning to reflect City’s dominance.

There were yet more chances before City made it three. Silva had an effort deflected wide, before a block ahead of Balotelli prevented the Italian from securing his hat-trick – as he tried to turn home a low cross from Silva. Eventually, the goal came – Balotelli flicked the ball back to Milner, he found Richards, and he found Aguero in the box. The striker slotted past David De Gea with ease.

It still didn’t stop. Substitute Edin Dzeko had his first shot of the game deflected before by Rio Ferdinand, before Silva volleyed over from inside the six-yard box, as he was pressurised by De Gea. Dzeko also had a shot saved by the goalkeeper, as Silva found his run inside the box on the break.

With ten minutes to play, there was a whiff of hope for the United fans that had stayed inside Old Trafford. Darren Fletcher curled a shot past Hart into the top corner from the edge of the box, pulling the score back to 3-1. It gave the home side a marginal lift, as their fans began to believe they could get something out of the match.

But as the game ticked into stoppage time, that hope had gone and the Reds were hoping for an end to be put to their misery. City hadn’t finished, though – not by a long shot.

First, Gareth Barry flicked a corner to the back post, where both Joleon Lescott and Dzeko were unmarked. The defender pulled the ball back and it ricocheted into the net via the striker’s knee. Neither were offside, despite the United appeals, and going into stoppage time, it was 4-1.

Just 72 seconds later, City had added to their tally for the afternoon. Despite having only just scored, the Blues found themselves on a three-on-two situation, as Dzeko broke forward. He rolled a pass into the path of Silva to his right and the Spaniard opened his body up to shoot, slotting an effort through the legs of De Gea. “They could turn defeat to humiliation,” was the cry from the commentator – and, even though City had scored, they still hadn’t finished.

The salt in the United wounds came in the final seconds. Silva, who had been sensational throughout, saved the best until last. As Ferdinand headed a clearance straight to him, the Spaniard took a touch to control and then volleyed a pass into space behind the United defence, setting Dzeko free. The Bosnian finished one-on-one with De Gea, holding off the pressure from the defender, and confirming United’s biggest ever Premier League defeat.

It was a record breaking afternoon. United hadn’t conceded six at home since 1930, and hadn’t lost by five on their own ground since 1955. That it had come against City and that it would swing where that season’s Premier League title would go just adds to the visitors’ delight.

After the match, Mancini was staying focused on the title: “For Manchester City, this will be a great day if we win the Premier League. Now, we’ve only won one game, an important game because we beat a fantastic team like United. But we only took three points. It’s important to win this game against a top team because confidence can grow. But I don’t think the 6-1 is important because it was maybe easier after the sending off. It was important that we beat United away.

“I think that we played well, but I don’t think it was the best performance from our team. I think we should improve many things.

“The scoreline does nothing. It’s an important three points to stay top of the league.”

Written by David Mooney

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