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.

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
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

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone