Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City: Michael Owen Wins All-Time Classic Derby
Manchester United resuced a derby victory right at the death against a tenacious Manchester City side in a game for the ages.
This match was one of the finest ever to take place between the two sides, with seven goals, two braces, and two strikes right at the death. A goal from Wayne Rooney gave United an early lead before Gareth Barry struck back, but two goals from Darren Fletcher were then cancelled out in turn by Craig Bellamy. It was up to evergreen Michael Owen to settle the game int he most dramatic of circumstances.
Of course, since the birth of the Premier League in 1992, the Manchester derby has seen both sides battling for supremacy in the city. But, today’s game was the first time it could take the legitimate title of top-of-the-table clash. City went into the game with a 100% record, whilst United had just one loss to their name.
Manchester United didn’t waste too much time in trying to dent this 100% record; the former United player, Carlos Tevez, made an attempt to chase down a under hit back pass and could have made it 1-0 straight from the kick-off. However, Ben Foster was first to the ball. Within seconds the Red Devils were on the attack and a low, well placed, shot from Wayne Rooney found the net to indeed make the score 1-0 but in favour of the red half of Manchester.
The Sky Blues tried to respond with Shaun Wright-Phillips but he seemed to be upfront by himself with no real support from Craig Bellamy or the frequently ‘booed’ Carlos Tevez. Wright-Phillips shot high and to the corner, but with no pace and it was easy for the hands of Foster. Craig Bellamy was then found with the ball at his feet at the corner flag, but spent too much time messing around to be goal threatening.
When Manchester City did equalise it came from one of the more unlikely places. Without Emmanuel Adebayor, Manchester City looked weakened upfront, failing to show the scoring finesse that has stormed them up the table with the Togolese man in the side. Cue Gareth Barry to find the pass of Tevez beautifully! The indecision of Foster, perhaps the United goal keeper could have used his feet instead of his hands, but unlike the incident in the first minute of the game, Tevez’s persistence allowed him to find Barry to level the game.
With the attacking prowess of the two teams starting to die down they turned their attention to attacking each other. Tevez lunged in on Rio Ferdinand in attempt to win an unwinnable ball and as a result found himself booked. Park Ji Sung could also have found himself with a yellow card on two occasions. The first was coming in from round the back of Steven Ireland which led to a wasted free-kick by Tevez, the ball broke to Bellamy and Park then took the legs of Bellamy as well.
With Tevez being involved in just about everything it was no surprise that Anderson’s tackle on Tevez brought about the first yellow card for a Manchester United player. The last yellow of the half was a real shame; Wright-Phillip’s had already shown a clean set of heels to two Manchester United players and looked set on dribbling round Nemanja Vidic to score a wonder goal. Unfortunately Wright-Phillip’s was taken down by the Serbian for which Vidic was rightly booked.
Tevez was truly someone desperate to make the headlines himself, Rooney may have been guilty of trying to be too clever in his own half with a back heel. Tevez stood up but unleashed neither a venomous nor a well placed shot after Kolo Toure’s layoff and it was only a post that stopped the score line changing. At half-time, despite Rooney’s early goal, Manchester City looked like the home team, but also looked like they were missing an Adebayor.
Deja-vu for the second half. Manchester United pressed from the whistle and found their lead for the second time in the game and they weren’t for wasting any time going about doing so. Paul Scholes’ suspension brought Darren Fletcher into the centre of the park for derby day and United legend Ryan Giggs crossed in the head of Fletcher. Fletcher had to compete with Gareth Barry in the air and with the tiniest of deflections off of the head of Barry, the ball slipped just past the fingertips of Shay Given.
Deja-vu number two followed, but instead of it being a Manchester United mistake it was a piece of Manchester City brilliance. Craig Bellamy showed no sign of disbelief in his goal scoring attributes firing from the edge of the box and ball sky-rocketing into the top corner.
There was no deja-vu number three. Manchester United were ahead and were the ones pressing harder than there opponents. Park, before his substitution on the hour, so two shots go wide. Dimitar Berbatov saw a superb saves from two of his headers and third header just sail of the crossbar. Giggs, who’d been the provider, could have scored attempting to nutmeg Shay Given, but Given was in no mood for that. Giggs again looked for the net with his feet, but Given was really on top form for a goalkeeper who conceded four times in one game.
The inclusion of Michael Owen in the final quarter is enough to scare any team, but when Manchester United won a free kick just five yards off of the left hand corner flag, up stepped Giggs again, to cross into Darren Fletcher as the Scotsman to scored an undisputable goal of his own.
When all looked dead and buried for Manchester City another defensive mistake changed the game again. Rio Ferdinand tried to lift the ball over the head of a City defender he intercepted with ease and played the right through-ball to Craig Bellamy who simply ran and ran all the way to the goal line slicing the ball behind Ben Foster and the score was 3-3… but not at the final whistle.
Five minutes into added time it was Michael Owen’s time to shine. Who else but Ryan Giggs found Owen in far too much space than what Mark Hughes would have like to have seen. Owen did what he did best and scored the winner with another magnificent finish.
The Red Devils found the net enough times to destroy City’s 100% record and move above City in the table. And even with the Sky Blue’s game in hand, they will have to put five clear goals past West Ham United to go back above Manchester United on goal difference.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s men may have won the game, but Mark Hughes’ side certainly made their intentions clear with a performance worthy of a Champions League place. Both sides will now look to the League Cup, but will take a while to get over this derby day spectacular.