Manchester United ended a four-match losing run against Manchester City in style on Sunday, beating its fierce rival 4-2 in the Premier League to signal a power shift back to the red half of the city.
United’s sixth straight league win came despite the soon-to-be-deposed champions going ahead through Sergio Aguero’s eighth-minute opener.
Ashley Young and Marouane Fellaini scored to put United ahead at halftime, before goals by Juan Mata and Chris Smalling in a seven-minute span midway through the second half. Aguero grabbed a late consolation for City.
The result will pile the pressure on City manager Manuel Pellegrini, whose team has now lost six of its last eight matches in all competitions in a dreadful 2015. City is fourth, 12 points behind leader Chelsea in a brittle title defense.
United stayed third, four points ahead of City, and won’t want the season to come to an end. The swagger is back at Old Trafford under Louis van Gaal, who has restored belief in the 20-time English champions.
City has inflicted some painful defeats on United since its rise as a force in the English game over the last few years, notably last season when it won 4-1 at home and 3-0 away on the way to the title.
The hurt will have subsided with this win.
Aguero’s goal capped an electric start by City, with David Silva running onto James Milner’s pass and sliding an inviting cross along the edge of the six-yard box for the Argentina striker to tap into an unguarded net. It ended a six-game run without a goal for Aguero.
United settled and equalized on its first attack. Fellaini made a nuisance of himself following a long clearance forward and the ball fell to Ander Herrera. From his cross, Gael Clichy’s sliding tackle deflected off Young and into the path of the United winger, who tucked the ball home from two meters.
Young then turned provider by sending a curling cross from the left over the head of Clichy for Fellaini to plant a header beyond the outstretched left hand of goalkeeper Joe Hart.
There was brief lull after a breathless first half hour before a lunging tackle by City captain Vincent Kompany on Daley Blind raised temperatures just before halftime. Kompany was booked, and was then substituted at the interval with an apparent groin injury.
The second half was even but United had a cutting edge and seized the initiative with two quick goals.
Wayne Rooney held the ball up well and fed Mata, who ran through unchallenged to place a finish between Hart’s legs. City’s defending was poor for the fourth goal, too, as Young whipped in a free kick that an unmarked Smalling headed in from eight meters.
Aguero’s shot from Pablo Zabaleta’s cross was fumbled into the net off the post by United goalkeeper David de Gea but the game was over as a contest by then.