Cristiano Ronaldo was sent off for the second time in a Manchester derby, but Wayne Rooney’s first-half strike was enough to hand United all three points at Eastlands.
Ronaldo’s two yellow cards – the second for a bizarre deliberate handball – meant the Reds had to play the last 22 minutes with 10 men. But City didn’t threaten until stoppage time and United held on to claim a deserved derby-day win.
Sir Alex’s men controlled the game from start to finish, proving class and ability on the pitch counts for far more than wealth and ambition off it. Certainly, when City’s new owners took over in the summer, expectations in the blue half of Manchester rose astronomically. Almost immediately, the owners outlined a wish to win the Champions League within just three years. On the evidence of the 151st Manchester derby, however, City still have a lot of work to do.
Dimitar Berbatov made a surprise return to the Reds’ starting line-up after missing United’s last two matches with a hamstring injury. His inclusion alongside Wayne Rooney meant Carlos Tevez had to be content with a place on the bench.
Elsewhere, Ji-sung Park was given the nod ahead of Ryan Giggs and Nani on the left side of midfield, while 18-year-old Brazilian Rafael started at right back in his first Manchester derby. He showed little sign of nerves, darting down the wing early on to add an extra man to the Reds’ attacks.
It was from the right that United’s first real chance came, although it was Ji-sung Park and not the young Brazilian who fizzed the ball across the Blues’ box. It reached Rooney at the penalty spot, but the England international’s shot was straight at Joe Hart.
The Reds dominated possession early on and Ronaldo rose highest on 14 minutes to head narrowly over the bar from Wayne Rooney’s corner. Berbatov then drew a finger-tip save from Hart when he nodded Rafael’s cross towards the far corner.