MANCHESTER // Perhaps it was putting a brave face on it. Perhaps it was the memory of the final six games of last season, when Manchester City were eight points behind their neighbours and still managed to win the league, but Roberto Mancini displayed bullish defiance after the most damaging of defeats.
“I am sure we can win the double this year,” said the City manager after Robin van Persie’s injury-time free kick delivered all three points to Manchester United, leaving City trailing their rivals by six points and ended their two-year, 37-game unbeaten home league record. “It is a bad feeling when you lose a derby in the last second,” added the City manager.
There was a different sort of blow to United’s Rio Ferdinand, struck by a coin while celebrating. City apologised to the defender, who was left bloodied.
The metaphorical damage was sustained by the hosts who were in charge until Wayne Rooney managed the first of his brace.
Van Persie and Ashley Young combined to set him up and Rooney wrong-footed Joe Hart by dragging his shot back across goal.
His second goal was as precise, Rooney finishing after Rafael da Silva’s right-wing cross.
Victory could have been sealed rather earlier than it was.
“It’s a funny game, football,” said Ferguson, referring to a dramatic minute when Van Persie curled a shot against the far post, Young put the rebound in, and was wrongly ruled offside, and then City surged forwards. David de Gea made a superb double save from Carlos Tevez and David Silva but only succeeded in delaying the goal by a matter of seconds, the striker laying the ball back for Yaya Toure to drill it in.
Then Silva’s shot hit De Gea’s shoulder and the bar and Pablo Zabaleta brought City back on level terms.
“City kept fighting and battling. They have this great record of scoring late goals and at that stage you would take the draw,” said Ferguson.
Instead, United got the win, courtesy of Van Persie’s free kick, deflected in off Samir Nasri. Mancini was annoyed that rather than the four men he wanted in the wall City had three.
“Two and a half,” said the Italian, referring to Nasri’s half-hearted effort.
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