Manchester United beat rivals Manchester City for the first time in five Premier League attempts with a stirring 4-2 comeback victory at Old Trafford.
City’s title defence had crumbled heading into the match amid a run of five defeats in seven matches across all competitions, but the champions briefly displayed their fluent best in the early stages – Sergio Aguero’s seventh goal in derbies after seven minutes the reward.
The direct, high-tempo approach United have found success with in recent weeks provided their route back into the match, with Ashley Young levelling before supplying the ammunition for Marouane Fellaini to give the hosts a 27th-minute lead.
Although Louis van Gaal’s men were fortunate to be ahead at that stage, they proceeded to dominate their neighbours, who slipped into the kind of lethargic performance now synonymous with their 2015 efforts – heaping pressure on Manuel Pellegrini.
Juan Mata, the hero of United’s recent triumph at Anfield, added a third midway through the second half amid strong suspicions of offside and Chris Smalling put the game beyond doubt, with Aguero’s late strike – his 100th for City – providing scant consolation for the visitors.
United sit four points clear of fourth-placed City, who face a battle for UEFA Champions League qualification with their season on the brink of total collapse.
Smalling – sent off in United’s 1-0 loss at the Etihad Stadium in November – returned from illness to line up in the home defence, with Marcos Rojo dropping to the bench.
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