But as far as old habits go, none are ingrained in Manchester United as deep as the ability to fight to the finish and score late winners. So when Robin van Persie’s injury-time free-kick clipped the end of the City wall and spun beyond Joe Hart’s despairing dive, it was, in many ways, exactly what everyone expected.
Ugly scenes followed van Persie’s winner. Rio Ferdinand was left bleeding after an object thrown from the City crowd caught him above the eye. A disgruntled fan then ran onto the pitch to confront the defender and had to be hauled away by a combination of City players, stadium security and local police.
City may well have to face some tough questions from the game’s governing authority over those incidents. The biggest inquisition, however, will take place inside the Blues’ dressing room, for City are now six points adrift of United and playing catch-up in the title race.
Of course, it’s important to remember that, although the Reds were victorious in battle at the Etihad, the war is still to be won. Sir Alex’s men are determined to wrench back the championship and reassert their position at the top of English football’s pecking order.
We’ll have to wait until May to see if that happens. For now, bragging rights will have to do.
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