In the end the Manchester derby was settled by two moments; a coolly taken finish by the clinical Sergio Aguero to put Manchester City ahead and a rash decision from Chris Smalling prior to that to put their neighbours Manchester United one man down.
United started the contest appearing the stronger of the two sides, dominating possession in the first twenty minutes and matching City all over the pitch. The club belonging to the blue half of Manchester grew into the game however, prompting United defender Smalling to pick up a yellow card for preventing a quick counter by blocking City goalkeeper Joe Hart’s dropkick.
Throughout the match City’s main threats came from wide positions and on the 39th minute, with City exerting an increasing degree of control on the game, Smalling lunged into a tackle on James Milner. The result was a second yellow card. It was the correct decision from the referee, but an incorrect one from the defender.
From then one until Sergio Aguero’s 63rd minute winner, City exerted total control and had two stonewall penalty appeals inexplicably turned down by referee Michael Oliver late in the first half.
United’s current poor situation was compounded by Marcos Rojo dislocating his shoulder in a challenge on Martin Demichelis, prompting their manager Louis van Gaal to place more trust in youngster Paddy McNair to fill in at centre back.
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That simply aided City and they made their domination count when Yaya Toure released Gael Clichy, again in a wide position. The French full-back superbly found Aguero as the striker slammed his left footed shot past David de Gea.
However, despite being down to ten men, losing Rojo and conceding a goal, United produced a spirited second half performance, as Manuel Pellegrini’s side sat back and invited pressure upon themselves.
Van Gaal’s men created opportunities and Marouane Fellaini really should have scored in the 78th minute with a header, but failed to hit the target after getting it all wrong. A minute earlier after a good run by United captain Wayne Rooney, Angel Di Maria forced a good save from Hart.
As United continued to maintain possession and mount significant pressure during the late stages of the game, Pellegrini appeared to shut up shop. The City manager took a clearly frustrated Aguero off, replacing him for Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho.
The manager will have been relieved to end his side’s recent winless run. United however will feel that they could and perhaps should have taken at least a point out of yesterday's game.
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