Manchester City made an emphatic statement to their bitter rivals and the rest of the Premier League with a stunning 4-1 victory over Manchester United at the Etihad. In the battle of the two managers taking charge in a Manchester derby for the first time, Manuel Pellegrini came out spectacularly on top as David Moyes suffered a painful early blow in his Old Trafford reign.
It will seem a long time ago to them now, but United had actually started the match brightly. But after an initial five minute spell, City took control and never relinquished it. Sergio Aguero put his side in front after just 15 minutes with a fine finish, before City stunned their opponents with three goals in six minutes either side of the half-time interval. Yaya Toure diverted in a corner from close range to end the first half and then Aguero and then Samir Nasri rammed home City’s advantage in a thrilling spell at the start of the second. In the absence of the injured Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney cut a frustrated figure as he tried in vain to make something happen for his side. His scant reward for his efforts came when he curled in a fine free-kick with three minutes remaining.
The goal capped an improved showing by United in the final 30 minutes, but it was far too little, far too late. City’s dominance was glaring. The performance was led by the dominant figure of Toure in midfield. The Ivorian’s intensity both with and without the ball was matched by his teammates. City pressed and harried a United side that was, not for the first time this season, desperately lacking in creativity. And when they had the ball, City passed and moved with purpose, with the player with the ball always having multiple options as well as runners not afraid to break behind a United defense that was again far from secure.
The result will obviously draw parallels with the 6-1 mauling City inflicted on United at Old Trafford. This result, though, is arguably more significant. After a shock 3-2 defeat to Cardiff City, many were questioning Pellegrni’s abilities. He has now provided a most powerful retort. It is a very different story for Moyes, who has now lost game to United’s two fiercest rivals -- following a 1-0 defeat to Liverpool three weeks ago – in just over a month of his first season since stepping into the daunting shoes of Sir Alex Ferguson.
Moyes will likely have been encouraged by how he side started the match, but after the first five minutes City took complete control. City were far more assured in possession and they had far more creativity in the final third. And in 16th minute, City were in front.
After Nasri tricked and turned Chris Smalling on the left, he laid the ball on to the overlapping Aleksandar Kolarov, who had been abandoned by Antonio Valencia, and the Serbian produced a fine cross from the byline that Aguero stylishly volleyed into the net from six yards.
With Moyes preparing his already challenging half-time team talk, his job was suddenly made all the tougher with a second goal for City that their dominance fully warranted. Alvaro Negredo was able to get his head to a right-wing corner and direct the ball down and toward goal. And, being played onside by Valencia standing on the post, Toure stuck out a leg to divert the ball past David de Gea.
Whatever Moyes said at the interval was completely negated as City ran rampant in the first five minutes of the second half to end the match as a contest. The first came courtesy of some exemplary awareness from the excellent Negredo. After being played down the left of the area by Nasri, the Spanish striker turned back on Nemanja Vidic and picked out a superb chipped pass for Aguero, who had once again lost his marker, to side-foot a volley that De Gea was unable to keep out.
With United now pushing forward desperately, City piled on the misery with a thrilling fourth goal just three minutes later. A lightning break was led by Jesus Navas, who soared forward unchecked from his own half before clipping a fine cross to the back post where Smalling had been sucked into the middle and Nasri was left free to strike a controlled volley past a now beleaguered De Gea.
Only a fine challenge from Vidic on Negredo prevented a fifth goal soon after. But Moyes may take some slight encouragement from his side’s improved showing late on. Yet, at that point City knew their work had been done. Patrice Evra headed against a post before Rooney got his fourth goal in three games with a curling free-kick past Joe Hart. The story, though, had already been written.