The Reds had been less than convincing in the build up to a much-hyped derby. Barnstorming early season form had given way to some creakiness in defence and Norwich City, visiting Old Trafford for the first time in seven years, could count themselves unfortunate to come away with nothing. Reds were thankful for some panicked finishing by Paul Lambert’s side as goals from Anderson and Welbeck eventually secured the three points.
A visit to Anfield beckoned next, where United had been beaten in the last three league visits. Wayne Rooney, curiously, was dropped to the bench, while Danny Welbeck led the line in front of a five-man midfield. The plan to stifle Liverpool worked up to a point, but Sir Alex's men were undone by a free-kick when Steven Gerrard’s shot was allowed to sail through the wall and into the unguarded corner of the net. Javier Hernandez was on hand to pop up with a leveller, while Patrice Evra’s on-field spat with Luis Suarez would rumble into view in the days to come…
A tricky trip to Romania to meet Otelul Galati in Bucharest was negotiated with routine ease courtesy of a pair of Rooney penalties before the team flew back to England in preparation for the derby.
We needn’t agonise over the details, but here’s as quick a recap as we can muster: Balotelli sweeps in the opener after good work by James Milner, Jonny Evans is sent off early in the second half for a foul on the Italian and the Blues move into a three-goal lead after 70 minutes following a second for Balotelli and one from Aguero.
Fletch’s thunderbolt on 81 minutes is, in hindsight, a catalyst for the disaster that follows,