Manchester City beat title rivals Manchester United to go top of the Premier League

Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson went to war with Roberto Mancini as Vincent Kompany's first-half header sent Manchester City soaring to the top of the Barclays Premier League table.

The result means that if City win their final two games - at Newcastle on Sunday and at home to QPR on the last day - they will be crowned champions for the first time since 1968.

And clearly the prospect does not please Ferguson, who approached his opposite number in a finger-jabbing fury after Nigel de Jong had brought down Danny Welbeck in the second half.

The Italian responded in kind and at one point only fourth official Mike Jones stood between the pair, who after repeated clashes, were eventually pulled apart by their backroom staff.

Tempers had cooled at the final whistle enough for the customary handshake to take place, although the fire mattered little to City.

Just four games after that Arsenal debacle, after which their hopes appeared dead, City are back on top and agonisingly close to their holy grail after completing a league double over their great rivals for only the second time in 42 years.

Although the team sheets indicated Ferguson had adopted a cautious approach and Mancini a more attack-minded one, in fact the opening exchanges provided an alternate view.

With his midfield reinforced by the introduction of Park Ji-sung to a Premier League starting line-up for the first-time since January, Ferguson's side quickly got into their stride and looked capable of carving out a decent opportunity or two.

However, Nani wasted their clearest opportunity when he ignored Phil Jones' overlapping burst and let fly from 35 yards with a shot that was hopelessly off-target.

City meanwhile began sluggishly, their midfield seemingly incapable of stringing a succession of passes together with any regularity.

Samir Nasri was the man who sparked them into life with a couple of mazy dribbles as the hosts started to get near the byline, which always gives defences cause for concern.

Sergio Aguero screwed a volley wide, then Pablo Zabaleta seized on an opportunity he would have been better leaving for Nasri and his shot rolled through to David de Gea.

After all the hype, it was hardly a classic, although as the clock ticked down towards half-time, the United camp presumably reflected they were quite happy at that.

So, to go behind in stoppage time in such orthodox fashion would have been particularly galling for the visitors.

De Gea's frailties under the high ball are well known by now. When David Silva curled over the second of successive corners, a stronger, more confident goalkeeper might have come to punch.

Instead, he left it to his defenders.

Chris Smalling, like Park, making his first start since January after Jonny Evans was ruled out through injury, momentarily lost Kompany on their run from the edge of the box and was still marginally out of position when the Belgian rose to power home from six yards.

It was a devastating goal for United to lose as there had been no obvious indication they were likely to score.

Wayne Rooney looked particularly out of sorts, isolated up front and generally unhappy with the buffeting he was receiving, which had only drawn one yellow card for Kompany.

The second half was only 12 minutes old when Ferguson offered his star man some badly-needed support, replacing Park with Welbeck.

Immediately before the change though United might have found themselves two down when De Gea came for a corner without getting near it and Nasri ended up curling wide of the far post.

Even when the Red Devils did build some attacking momentum, their final pass was either off-target or overhit, ensuring Hart was not tested.

However, with his side well capable of grabbing a second, Mancini's decision to replace Carlos Tevez with De Jong hinted at containment, a very dangerous ploy against this particular set of opponents.

Yaya Toure did thrash a long-range effort wide, his shot close enough to have De Gea scrambling across his goal.

And, in truth, United seemed to have precious few ideas about prising their opponents open.

De Jong's foul on Welbeck brought a yellow card for the Dutchman and sparked the furious touchline row between Ferguson and Mancini. Peace was eventually restored but the visitors failed to feed off their manager's fire.

Toure came agonisingly close to grabbing a second for the Blues and De Gea made an excellent save to deny Gael Clichy.

And despite five minutes' stoppage time, the Blues cruised home, and the songs of celebration began with City two games from glory.

PA

Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas