When I think of one of the greatest games that I’ve seen in my life so far, it’s the Manchester Derby at the Etihad Stadium in the 2012/2013 season. Funny fact is, it’s also my favourite United game and I have many reasons to support this statement on why it’s one of the greatest games ever. First of all, the Manchester Derby is by far, the biggest game for a United fan to look forward to. I can’t stand losing one. It’s more than just a game for us Mancunians. It’s all about passion. It’s all about bragging rights. It’s all about whether Manchester is red or whether it’s blue and most of all, it’s all about dominance over the other.
There have been some great Manchester Derbies played in the past. I can go back to Michael Owen scoring in literally the last minute of the game against City in 2009 or even to when Rooney scored an overhead kick which lifted the Old Trafford faithful off their feet. Those games and those moments sure do give me the chills even now but this one is just something else. At that time, it meant so much.
The thing that hurt me the most and I think it hurt a lot of United fans as well was the fact that Manchester City had snatched the title away from us on the last day in May 2012. We had the same results. We had won the same number of games and we had lost the same number of games. All that mattered was goal difference.
I started to fear Manchester City. Before this game, City were undefeated at the Etihad from December 2010 when they last lost to Everton at home. They were the defending champions. They had in-form players. They were invincible. Most of all, they were the favourites to win this derby.
Now, this is one reason why I love United. Even though, we had all these brick walls against us, we knew that we had to make a statement. We had to bounce back and that’s what United is all about. When a team strikes us down, we come back striking them even harder.
On paper, City had a better team. Sergio Aguero was in great form. Joe Hart was one of the best in the league at that moment. Their defence was a bit shaky but still very solid with Kompany as the leading man. Despite all this, United took the lead through Rooney inside 15 minutes. It was an awkward goal but it was well constructed with the help of Robin van Persie and Ashley Young who also provided the assist. No other player has scored more goals in the derby than Wayne Rooney. I remember jumping off my couch while watching this game at home. We looked strong and we really took the game to City. The United players were working their socks off. You could see that they really wanted it. After some good chances created, United were 2-0 up in 30 minutes and it was Rooney again. We were ecstatic. The United fans were making more noise than the City fans. We started doing the Poznan to mock the City fans.
Everything was going the way it should have. We were 2-0 up. Nothing could go wrong.
Oh wait, it actually did. Yaya Toure scored making it 2-1 in the 60th minute. The Etihad went berserk. They threw everything at us. David De Gea was forced to make a lot of saves. They weren’t going to go out without a fight. We had almost won it. I was begging United to just hold on to the lead. It was the 85th minute when City were given a corner. Tevez took the corner. It struck off Van Persie and went straight to Pablo Zabaleta who thumped it into the back of the net. It was 2-2. The game was going to end up as a draw which to be fair was not a good result for United. Rafael, our right-back moved the ball forward to create one last chance and was tripped by Carlos Tevez at the edge of the box. It was the 90th minute plus added time. A goal here would have made United 6 points clear at the top. Rooney and Van Persie stood up for it.
Here is another important aspect of this game. Before Manchester United signed Robin van Persie from Arsenal in the same season, it was said that Van Persie refused City to come to United and there he stood with the ball at his feet in front of 40,000 fans stepping up to take a free-kick in the last minute of his first Manchester Derby in a United shirt.
It was destiny.
Van Persie took the free-kick and the ball headed towards the wall, deflected off Samir Nasri’s left foot and ended up in the corner of the net beating Joe Hart.
We had won it. United had won the derby in the last minute of the game. It was crazy at the Etihad. It was 3-2. We had beaten the Champions. We ended a 2 year old unbeaten streak at the Etihad. We went 6 points clear at the top of the league and most importantly, we were back.