MANCHESTER, England (AP) – Sergio Aguero's second-half goal earned Manchester City a 1-0 victory over ten-man Manchester United in Premier League football today, taking the team’s winning run in the derby to four games.
United played with ten men from the 39th minute after centre back Chris Smalling’s sending-off, and Aguero broke down stubborn resistance from the visitors’ makeshift defence when he turned in Gael Clichy’s cross in the 63rd.
City survived some nervy late moments to end a three-match winless run in all competitions and stay six points behind unbeaten leader Chelsea. After ten games, United are 13 points off Chelsea and in ninth place.
The blue half of Manchester has won four straight derbies in the league for the first time since 1969-70 and owns the league’s top scorer in Aguero, who has ten goals in ten games.
Smalling’s red card was a turning point in a typically frenetic, high-tempo match, although City had already taken command by that point with United goalkeeper David de Gea saving twice from Aguero and also point blank from Jesus Navas in a three-minute spell.
Booked needlessly in the 31st for impeding an out-of-hand clearance by goalkeeper Joe Hart, Smalling dived into a challenge on James Milner eight minutes later and knew what was coming from referee Michael Oliver.
United have been in a defensive mess all season but by the end of the first half, they had a back four containing two midfielders – substitute Michael Carrick, brought on as a centre-back replacement, and Antonio Valencia - and two offseason signings in Marcos Rojo and Luke Shaw.
The visitors survived until half-time, somewhat fortunately, as last man Rojo appeared to foul Yaya Toure in the final seconds. But their situation became even more critical at the start of the second half when Rojo was carried off on a stretcher with a shoulder injury in the 55th following a challenge with Martin Demichelis. He was replaced by 19-year-old Paddy McNair to give the defence an even more unfamiliar look.
It was always going to be a struggle for United to hold out and Aguero was not to be denied.
A searching pass from Toure found Clichy – a last-minute call-up after Aleksandar Kolarov picked up an injury in the warm-up – and the leftback’s cut-back from the by line was steered in by Aguero, who moved beyond Diego Costa as the league top scorer.
It was only then that United started to create chances, with Angel Di Maria bringing a sprawling save from Joe Hart and Marouane Fellaini heading wide when meeting a cross from Di Maria.
Navas struck the post at the other end but United were pressing more when the full-time whistle was blown.