Robin Van Persie celebrates his winning goal. Photo by
Manchester United put down a huge marker in the Premier
League title race as Robin Van Persie's late free kick sealed a
dramatic 3-2 derby victory in Manchester City's Etihad Stadium
fortress to propel them six points clear.
City had fought like tigers to haul themselves back after
Wayne Rooney's first-half double had taken the England
striker through the 150 Premier League goal barrier but
strikes from Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta proved in vain as
Dutchman Van Persie marked his first Manchester derby with
the winner in injury time.
Everton also scored twice in stoppage time to beat Tottenham
Hotspur 2-1 at Goodison Park - Nikica Jelavic's decisive goal
sending Everton back into the top four.
United's victory made up for the two league defeats they
suffered against City last season as Roberto Mancini's side
went on to win the title for the first time since 1968.
However, it was marred by an ugly incident immediately after
Van Persie's deflected free kick had beaten Joe Hart when a
celebrating Rio Ferdinand was struck by an object thrown from
the City fans and suffered a cut to his face.
"It's unfortunate that a City fan runs on and coins are
thrown. That shouldn't happen. The same thing happened at
Chelsea, which was masked by all the other things. We could
have done without that," United manager Alex Ferguson told
Fergsuon preferred to revel in his side's victory which ended
City's unbeaten start to the season and snapped their
two-year unbeaten run at home in the Premier League.
"You couldn't take your eyes off it today, it was so
engrossing. It tells you about the quality of the Premier
League, it's such a great league," Ferguson said.
Rooney put United ahead after a 16th minute counter-attack
which ended with his scuffing a shot low into the corner.
It was not the sweetest connection but made the 27-year-old
the youngest player to reach 150 Premier League goals - a
feat only managed previously by Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer,
Robbie Fowler, Andy Cole and Frank Lampard.
Rooney made it 2-0 in the 29th minute with a cool finish
after fine link-up play between Rafael and Antonio Valencia.
It was clinical by United and City, who had already lost
centre back and skipper Vincent Kompany, appeared deflated.
Mancini lost patience with striker Mario Balotelli seven
minutes into the second half, replacing him with former
United striker Carlos Tevez.
While Balotelli went off to stew in the dressing room, the
game suddenly changed in the space of a minute on the hour.
Ashley Young was wrongly judged offside as he slotted into an
empty net after Van Persie's shot hit the woodwork and almost
immediately City went down the other end where Tevez showed
great composure to set up Toure fire past David De Gea.
Belief flooded back into the City ranks and Zabaleta's
thumping finish made it 2-2 in the 87th minute and even
raised home hopes of an unlikely victory.
Van Persie had other ideas, however, and stepped up in
stoppage time to fire a free kick past Hart with the aid of a
slight deflection off Samir Nasri.
Tottenham were minutes away from a fourth consecutive league
victory that would have consolidated their place in the top
four when Clint Dempsey put them ahead at Goodison Park in
the 76th minute.
Everton, beaten only twice in the league this season,
equalised with a header from former Tottenham player Steven
Pienaar before Jelavic poked home the winner.