“93:20”, the time in which Sergio Aguero sealed the premier league title from the hands of their Mancunian rivals was hung high in the stands of the Etihad and will forever be remembered in City folklore. However, the game yesterday will not be remembered so dearly to the ones in blue as Robin van Persie scored the winner through a free-kick via a deflection off Samir Nasri’s shin that looped over and into the corner of Joe Hart’s net. This one was settled at “91:45” and will go down in United’s folklore as one of the most exciting Manchester derbies.
We’ve all seen this before (most notably the 4-3 derby at Old Trafford in 2009 when Michael Owen scored the winner in the 96th minute), both these sets of teams showing the mental strength that only a title can bring, as said by Gary Neville. City did it 7 months ago and here United did it as well. Robin van Persie’s goal was United’s 78th PL strike in 90+ minutes, only Chelsea and Arsenal have more (84). This game could have gone differently if Ashley Young had his goal not ruled out for offside (replays shows he wasn’t) and United would be 3-0 up and they would be home and dry. City had scored their goal immediately after that decision. Thin lines.
However this was a derby; a derby which could prove significant in the title race come May (or not). A derby in which temperatures rose, tempers flared, and unworthy incidents occurred. This was different, it had to be. This was a City side who haven’t been beaten at home in the Premier League since December 2010 against Everton. And as Rooney said, “something special” had won the game. He was right, the brilliance of Robin van Persie’s left foot had won it, a man who was playing in his first ever Manchester Derby, and a man who has scored in games away to Liverpool and Chelsea, his previous club Arsenal, and now City.
Mancini must be kicking his heels as he had let his primary target in the summer slip into United’s hands as they lost out on goal difference in the final game of last season. When Sir Alex Ferguson heard van Persie wasn’t signing a new contract, he immediately made his move as this was simply a player who was too good to miss out on. He had even rang Wenger personally to make his inquiry about van Persie, whereas Mancini was cursing himself and contemplating on the state of his summer acquisitions due to Brian Marwood (then City’s man to deal with transfers) and the fact that he had to sell before he had to buy due to the FFP regulations. Ferguson then bought van Persie for 24 million pounds; a price then considered to be too expensive for a 29-year-old injury-prone striker. But he didn’t bother, he was worth every penny.
And here it was in the 91st minute and 45th second, the ball deflected off Nasri – the man who chose City over United two summers ago primarily due to more money, courtesy of van Persie – the one who chose United over City even though City had offered him 300.000 pounds/week wages, but he didn’t care. He didn’t want money. He thinks that United is the club that can match his ambitions and decided that he wanted to join the red half of Manchester. ‘You don’t always get what you want’ and Roberto Mancini must have learned that the hard way, Robin van Persie was the one that got away.