Owen goal in seven gives United victory in thriller
Manchester Utd 4 Manchester City 3:Michael Owen stole the show in a derby for the ages as Manchester United demonstrated why the team from Old Trafford remain the city’s dominant force. In the fifth minute of stoppage-time, the substitute strode onto Ryan Giggs’ precise pass, looked up and calmly found the bottom right corner.
Alex Ferguson danced, Mark Hughes looked punch drunk. One of the most eagerly awaited Manchester derbies had become one of the most dramatic.
Hughes was sick, angrily asking how referee Martin Atkinson had managed to come up with so much additional time.
For the record, United led three times but on each occasion were pegged back thanks to their own idiotic mistakes. Carlos Tevez left the field laughing. But only because Anderson was winding him up.
Ferguson has put forward a rather disparaging assessment of Tevez’s time at Old Trafford, highlighting why he did not feel the Argentina star was worth the €31million United eventually offered to pay.
Yet the Scot’s assessment centred around Tevez’s goals output.
No-one could ever quibble at his work-rate. It was one of the reasons that made him such a hero among the Old Trafford faithful and why the City fans were so quick to acknowledge talent beyond the obvious humour of signing a player Ferguson was urged time and again last season to sign up.
That knowledge left Ben Foster with no excuse for the truly abysmal error of judgement that gifted City their equaliser.
Even Joleon Lescott turned away in disappointment as his long pass bounced into no man’s land. Foster clearly felt it would eventually run into the area, which was a debatable point in itself.
Eventually, Foster realised more urgent action was required as Tevez stormed in, just as he should have expected.
Any chance of redemption disappeared as Tevez nicked the ball away from Foster’s grasp as he tried to reach the safety of his area, and slipped a pass to Gareth Barry which the England midfielder gleefully swept home.
The mistake was made worse by the knowledge Foster had already received one warning, when he got his wires crossed with Nemanja Vidic and allowed Tevez to half-block a long punt downfield.
Foster might have genuine hopes of becoming United’s number one goalkeeper and going to the World Cup. In one moment of madness, he might have blown them.
An errant Wayne Rooney backheel might not have been of the same magnitude but its consequences were almost equally dire for United.
Kolo Toure strode onto the loose ball and fed Tevez for the opportunity to score a goal that would have left Ferguson distraught and humiliated in equal measure.
Tevez thought his shot was going in. To his frustration — and Ferguson’s relief, it bounced to safety off the post.
It had all looked so different 43 minutes earlier.
United made a bright start, with Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov looking particularly threatening, when Shaun Wright-Phillips let Patrice Evra run free at a quickly-taken Ryan Giggs throw-in.
Evra fed Rooney, who had the strength to wriggle past Toure and Nigel de Jong before prodding home from close range.
At that point, the noise was deafening. If anything, the volume had gone even further up the scale at the end of a awesome first seven minutes of the second half as United got their noses in front, only to be pegged back once more.
Fletcher did the damage for Ferguson’s team, rising above Barry to power home a Giggs’ curling cross.
Yet, just as the hosts looked set to take control, with Park Ji-sung and Giggs going close, Craig Bellamy thundered home an equaliser.
Bellamy had been buzzing around in his inimitable manner, but there was no doubting the stamp of class on his 20-yard strike as he collected Tevez’s short pass, cut inside John O’Shea and drilled into the top right corner. This time Foster was blameless.
But there was so much drama still to come. Fletcher thought he had won it as he powered home a second header, again from a Giggs cross, 10 minutes from time.
Yet the suicidal tendencies in United ranks had not gone away. Rio Ferdinand attempted an idle chip a minute from time, but found Barry instead. Barry released Bellamy, who ran 60 yards before tucking past Foster.
It seemed City had come through their biggest test yet. Not on your life.