Manchester United 1 Manchester City 2 match report: Sergio Aguero goal slows United's Premier League title charge

James Milner opened the scoring at Old Trafford

Old Trafford

Sergio Aguero did not score a goal that won the league for Manchester City tonight, as he did on that famous day last May; he did not whip off his shirt in celebration and disappear under a pile of his team-mates in front of a crowd who knew they were witnessing history. But if you are going to lose the title to your most despised rivals by some distance, then this was by far the best way to do it.

At City they have one Argentinian striker who is obliged to help tidy up Manchester at the discretion of the probation service, and another who has a habit of cleaning up on the big occasions. Aguero's winning goal will not change the course of the title race but it has put a dent in the killing machine at Old Trafford that has crushed so much before it this season.

When they wake up in the morning, City will still be 12 points behind United, and they will have to steel themselves for handing over the Premier League trophy next month. A win at Old Trafford was small consolation in the great scheme of things, especially for a club that has City's lofty ambitions, but it did not feel that way last night.

At the end, the City players celebrated in front of their fans while Ryan Giggs, for one, turned on his heel and walked off without a look back. When the dust settles, City may well ask themselves why they found themselves so far behind United before they discovered the kind of form and verve to put together a performance like the one tonight.

Roberto Mancini later blamed it on the number of injuries his side had been forced to deal with over the season, naming the likes of Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure as critical absentees. He would not accept that he has a big enough squad to deal with it but this was not a night to search for the disguised meaning in Mancini's words, it was one to admire the performance of his side.

As for United, they will pick themselves up and come 18 May they will have their 20th title. It changes nothing in that respect. They have been by far the best team in the league this season - there can be no argument with the gap at the top of the table. Yet this result does pose more questions about the quality of this particular side and what they need to push on again next season, especially in Europe.

Robin Van Persie drew another blank and Wayne Rooney went two-footed on James Milner in the first half with the kind of challenge that might, have made a more edgy referee consider the red card. He was substituted before the end. United's best player was Phil Jones whose header was deflected in off Kompany for United's goal. It was Jones who made the despairing, unsuccessful last challenge on Aguero as he set himself to score.

United are currently playing as if the season has already finished and Sir Alex Ferguson's flurry of late substitutions after Aguero's goal suggested even he was caught in two minds about his approach to the match. It was hard to pick out an outstanding attacking player in his side with Ashley Young a marginal figure and Danny Welbeck only slightly better.

By way of contrast, City had many more who performed well, starting with Kompany and Matija Nastasic and onto Gareth Barry and Milner. In fact Barry, crucial in Milner's opening goal just shaded it as the most influential player on the pitch for his sheer application and willingness to put himself in the centre of things. That included a row with Rio Ferdinand towards the end of the game when tempers frayed.

The game promised a lot more at the start when, for 15 minutes, both teams found themselves carried along, perhaps against their better instincts, to attack one another blow-for-blow. It shaped up to be a classic. Then when the storm abated it was a match without a theme for much of the remaining 75 minutes.

City had the best of it and in the first half they had a lot of possession without ever properly threatening the United goal. The home side started poorly, discounting a very promising break from Welbeck from Young's flick in midfield on four minutes. United had City outnumbered but Rooney could not persuade Welbeck to pass him the ball and Gael Clichy reacted well to get a tackle in.

Just before half-time a timid little shot from Rafael Da Silva, running onto Van Persie's flick from Michael Carrick's ball into the box, clipped the angle of post and bar. It sounded more impressive than it looked and Joe Hart watched it all the way. You might have thought that City had missed their chance but they came out for the second half with purpose.

Milner's shot, deflected in off Carrick, from the edge of the area started when Giggs lost the ball out on the left wing trying to essay a backheel. Barry nicked it away and turned possession into an attack. He carried the ball down the left channel and crossed where Samir Nasri was able to tee up Milner for the goal.

In the immediate aftermath it was difficult to see United finding that extra gear that would enable them to force their way back into the game. Certainly they had failed to do so up to that point. Their equaliser, just before the hour owed much to the award of a free-kick on the right side that looked borderline, for a wrestle between Yaya Toure and Rafael

Van Persie's free-kick had such whip and pace on it that Jones did well to get around it and head the ball back where it clipped Kompany's back and went in. The game opened up and City, with Aguero on for Nasri, did not lose their nerve.

Taking an innocuous pass from Yaya Toure just outside the box, Aguero broke right, getting across Jones and Rio Ferdinand before lifting a right foot shot past De Gea from close range. Magnificent. Rooney, poor all night, was hauled off for Javier Hernandez and Shinji Kagawa came on for the injured Young but this was City's night. United have had most things their way this season, but not all of it.

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
people
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Sport
football
News
i100
News
Perry says: 'Psychiatrists give help because they need help. You would not be working in mental health if you didn't have a curiosity about how the mind works.'
people
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

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?