Some will remember the first 28 minutes of today's Manchester Derby, dwelling on the swath where Manchester City looked ambitious enough to compete, using that as reason to denigrate today's performance from Manchester United. Given the fact that United, as is their modus operandi, again did just enough to win, the Red Devils practically invite that criticism. Such critiques, however, are likely to overlook United's control of the match's last hour, limiting City to one decent chance throughout the match, downing their rivals in Saturday's derby, 2-1.
That City chance was not the one on which they scored, a second half moment of fortune that saw an innocuous Edin Dezko shot become dangerous after deflecting off David Silva's back. The chance came in the sixth minute, Silva through on goal via a surprisingly (and frequently) open channel between Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra. Great work from Edwin van der Sar forced Silva's eight yard shot just wide, with City never able to replicate the quality of that chance.
Instead, Manchester United slowly came into a match they have allowed their visitors to control early. By the half hour mark, the match was looking more like the previous derby, a 0-0 draw at Eastlands dominated by United. The league-leaders were controlling tempo and possession, finding an easy route through midfield down their left flank, where they used both Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney to get them into attack.
In the 41st minute, United broke through, though rather than building their goal through the left, the Red Devils went direct and through the middle. A long ball from the back led to an aerial challenge between Joleon Lescott and Rooney. The resulting ball came down for GIggs, coming in from the left, who played a hard pass to Nani, streaking in behind Lescott. Nani had beaten Pablo Zabaleta and, with his second touch, beat Joe Hart into the right of goal, sending United into half up 1-0.
In the second, United was less ambitious but as controlling, though they would have to shift gears after the David Silva tally. Twenty minutes into the half, just as you were starting to wonder how the managers would adjust to the game's last act, Shawn Wright-Phillips, having been brought on for Aleksandar Kolarov, played a ball along the ground from the right, into the penalty area, for Dzeko, who had been run past by the United line. The striker's only touch we a shot, seemingly headed for the middle of net, that deflected off a jumping and turning Silva, going into the left side of van der Sar's goal.
After the equalizer, the match resumed the even feel of the game's opening moments, a feeling that would swing toward United as the 80th minute approached. However, before the match could get there, Wayne Rooney would decide it with possibly the best goal of his career.
A ball played into United's final third was one-touched back into midfield, a slight miss-hit that looped toward Paul Scholes. The United midfielder immediately swung the ball wide right, where Nani was one-on-one with Pablo Zabaleta. Moments later the Portuguese sent a cross toward the left edge of the six. As the ball swung out, Wayne Rooney was able to create space from his mark (Micah Richards), eventually leaping with back-to-goal for the ball. Leaning back, Rooney lifted his right foot onto a shot into the upper-right corner of goal, giving United a 2-1 lead.
With little threat from City, United held that lead through stoppage time, giving them a seven point lead at the top of the table spending Arsenal's match with Wolves. City drops to eight off the pace, likely saying goodbye to their title hopes.