Welcome to Manchester. There's nothing more a big brother hates more than not being in charge. The little brother is supposed to be the person who looks up to you, who maybe embarrasses himself at family events – parking his Ford Focus next to your Porsche, getting insanely drunk and eventually starting a mass brawl – and who should never be able to dent your pride in any way and that's that. He's not meant to show you up. He's not meant to be better than you. The big brother's role is one of the amiable bully, prodding, poking and belittling, all out of love. Only, one day the little brother grows up, he starts to get ideas and things start to change. And then there's no going back, not once he's
punched you right in the kisser beaten you for the first time at Fifa on the Xbox. Which is precisely what's happened in Manchester over the last six months.
For a while, Manchester United could laugh at Manchester City's pretensions, assuming that despite the money, there'd never be a cure for Cityitis, especially while poor old Garry Cook was at the club. City wasted money on the likes of Robinho; they mocked up that Carlos Tevez poster; United beat them in the last minute three times in the 2009-10 season, knocking them out of the Carling Cup in the process; City sacked Mark Hughes and failed to reach the Champions League. Even last season, when City won the FA Cup, their first trophy since 1969, United went and won a record-breaking 19th league title, an act of amusing and predictable one-upmanship. At the start of this, the pattern looked like continuing, as City went 2-0 up in the Community Shield and United won it in the last minute thanks to a grotesque error from Gael Clichy.
Of course, the analogy falls down on the presumption that United had any sort of love for City before now; no, much more preferable when they were a joke. 23 October 2011, the day that Glazernomics versus Oil Money reached its logical conclusion and City stuffed United 6-1, changed things. Unsurprisingly that result has left psychological scars amongst the United players, staff and fans and for the first time in living memory, they are running scared ahead of the derby. Speak to United aficionados, and they'll tell you they are dreading this game. Out of the Champions League and embarrassed by Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup, they have lost their last two games to Blackburn and Newcastle, defeats that were notable as much for their alarming ineptitude as a worrying lack of anything approaching belief. Against Blackburn, they were without several key players, but that wasn't the case against Newcastle. In the build-up to this game, there have been rumblings about a breakdown in relations between Sir Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney, something admittedly rubbished by the club. The big Roy Keane-sized hole in midfield (don't mistake that for something caused by Anderson) has even led to rumours of a return for Paul Scholes, last seen booting Pablo Zabaleta into orbit during last season's FA Cup semi-final.
At this point, I am contractually obliged to remind you to write United off at your peril.
Roberto Mancini. Allow me to light the blue touchpaper and ask whether this guy is actually any good? Consider, for a moment, that in Italy he won the league with Inter when there was no competition and that he never did anything in Europe with them, while Jose Mourinho came in and won the Champions League in his second year. It's difficult for Mancini to escape comparison with Mourinho, who had a similar sort of job at Chelsea - there was simply no debate about whether they would win the title under him. Mancini is in arguably the weakest league for years, and City are only three points ahead of United, who are, right now, in disarray. Spend as much as Mancini has and being top is the bare minimum - as is getting through the group stages of the Champions League. Swap today's managers around and City would be out of sight already.
Actual breaking news: Paul Scholes is returning to Manchester United until the end of the season and is on the bench today. That's incredible. Bring back Eric Djemba-Djemba and William Prunier too. It's a sign of total desperation. To my left, Gregg Roughley jokes that Nicky Summerbee is on the bench for City. It would be better if it was his dad.
Email. "Great brother riff; do you have a sibling called Esau, or would that just be weird?" says Ryan Dunne. I wish. "More generally, whilst I can understand ABUs delighted at City's rise, genuine neutrals should surely view them more as a Clone; another billionaire-backed monolith hoovering up the support of kids across the land who would otherwise passionately follow their local diddy teams (such as Rushden & Diamonds - or West Ham!). United fans themselves, meanwhile, must surely view City as not a clone, not a brother, but more of an Evil Twin http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EvilTwin (warning: TV tropes is the most addictive site on the internet. Proceed with caution!)."
"I think that contract has been breached!" says Mel Hughes. "As a die hard United fan I think I might revert to my 8 year old self and go and hide behind the sofa until it's over as I used to do watching Dr. Who!"
And to think Sir Alex Ferguson said there was no value in the market. He's gone and got Paul Scholes on a free! The bad news is they can't just give him his old shirt, what with Ashley Young having taken the No18 shirt. Although will he have to give it back? Maybe Scholes could do an Ivan Zamorano and have '17+1' on his back?
Team news. Look at Manchester City, down to the bare bones.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Pantilimon; Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Kolarov; De Jong, Milner, Nasri; Johnson, Aguero, Silva. Subs: Hart, Clichy, Zabaleta, Savic, Hargreaves, Razak, Suarez.
Manchester United (4-4-2): Lindegaard; Smalling, Jones, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia, Carrick, Giggs, Nani; Rooney, Welbeck. Subs: De Gea, Rafael, Evans, Anderson, Park, Hernandez, Scholes.
Referee: Chris Foy.
Meanwhile here's what Sir Alex Ferguson has had to say on Scholes coming to the rescue. If everything goes to plan, he could end the day with a big fat kiss from Gary Neville, just like May 2010.
It's fantastic that Paul has made this decision. It's always sad to see great players end their careers, but especially so when they do it early. But he has kept himself in great shape and I always felt that he had another season in him. It's terrific to have him back."
Pre-match emails: I'll put these in, then have some pre-match pasta.
"Is Alex Ferguson seriously suggesting that in all the world of football, Paul Scholes is his best option?" says Pete Marland. "He hasn't played in at least 8 months and isn't getting younger. I mean, OK, he might bring something, and could even be inspired, but it is hardly the normal Fergie "don't look back, always plan for the future" attitude. Why not dip into the market, the squad needs it? Is the real issue there is no Glazer money or is it a real belief their is no need? A man close to 40 is not an option that seems rational to me!"
"You know the wheels will have fallen off the Man Utd comedy vehicle if Scholes comes on then gets sent off for one of his trademark "tackles"," parps Ian Copestake.
"Pondering over united's woes I have come to wonder if it's down to a lack of that eternally fuzzy concept of a 'football brain'," says Oliver Lewis. "I'm not sure that any of the regulars in their squad seem particularly smart. Ferguson probably is happy with this not wanting any of the team thinking for themselves, but if you look at their slaughtering in their last derby it was down to a stupid recklessness in the last moments. If you look at barca pretty much their entire team one thinks could end up coaching. Man U team has lots of talent but are perhaps dumb and predictable. Or maybe I'm being a bit mean on some of them."
"I've just seen Bobby Charlton rubbing dubbing into his boots on sky sports news," honks John Steciuk.
"According to Ferguson 'It's always sad to see great players end their careers, but especially so when they do it early.'," says Mike Gibbons. "Hate to point out the stunningly obvious here, but he was 36 when he jacked in and 37 now. There really is nothing in the piggy bank is there?"
"Surely Neil Webb is available too?" says Harvey Kelly. "Scholes on the bench? I'm not sure if you're making that up and I fell for it. But sod Neil Webb, I'm available - I'm a right-footed left-sided midfielder (although I can play in the hole too, sort of like Juan Mata but a bit taller). Pass my CV on to Fergie will you?"
"Ryan Dunne may have doomed a good percentage of those reading the MBM today to miss the match," says Mustapha Garba. "Doesn't he know you NEVER directly link to TVTropes these days? And going on the evil twin topic, I for one wish it wasn't Scholes on the bench today, but his Evil Twin, who'd proceed to come on in the second half, put the boot in on Silva, get red carded, and then proceed to put the bot in on the referee, prompting a season-long ban. Then we can get this midfield farce out in the glare of the sun, where Fergie can no longer deny seeing it."
"You are spot on regarding Mancini and about time some journalist caught his bluff," says Shyam Sandilya. "This guy is unbelievably - and not in a good way. He has 23 players at the cost of 700 million Euros, has on owner who has spent more money than anyone in the history of professional football and still asks for more funds to buy players because of two/three injuries. He is not a coach who develops players like Van Gaal or Guardiola or Wenger or even SAF, he is a rich shopper at a supermarket of football. "hmm..My midfielder is not playing well, Ok Sheikh, give me 50 million to rectify that" A coach is supposed to work on the training ground and not in the transfer market. Oh yeah and I suppose I need to add the usual disclaimer - I am not a united fan by any means."
My colleague Mike Adamson has sent me this list about United's midfield signings. "Paul Scholes is only the eighth senior centre-midfielder signed by Manchester United since the turn of the century. The others have had a mixed record," he says.
Anderson, £27m, July 2007
Owen Hargreaves, £17m, July 2007
Michael Carrick, £18.6m, July 2006
Liam Miller, free, July 2004
Kleberson, £5.93m, August 2003
Eric Djemba-Djemba, £3.5m, July 2003
Juan Sebastian Veron, £28.1m, July 2001
On that topic, Ian Copestake writes in. "Your colleague Rob Smyth has been taking some abuse for his article on Fergie's decline, but the knight of the realm could not have helped Rob's argument in a more timely manner," says Ian Copestake. Some rather foolish, childish people are going to have to admit that Rob is right.
What does this say about the likes of Paul Pogba? Maybe Alan Hansen was right all along. Pogba, by the way, is being linked with City and Milan. "It would have been interesting to see Ferguson put Morrison or Pogba on the bench, considering his 'huge' commitment to youth," says Joe Mahoney. "Instead he brings a player out of retirement. Might as well just shut that youth centre down, if we're still using the players that came through it well over a decade ago."
The teams walk out to a terrific atmosphere. ITV pundit Roy Keane says Manchester United will be kicking the dressing room door of the hinges. "They'll be desperate to put City back in their place," he blasts. I'm scared and I'm watching on television. Imagine being stood next to him if City win this. Just think of the nuclear meltdown that will unfold.
Blue Moon blares out over the tannoy. Mancini and Ferguson share a handshake. Ferguson even has one with Brian Kidd. The atmosphere is spine-tingling.
1 min: We're off, United in their red shirts getting us underway and kicking from right to left. Loud boos and whistles naturally greet their every touch. Aguero scoots down the right flank unattended but can't make anything of it. "Rob's article was right and so was a certain fearsome Irish Centre Midfielder in the Times the other week," says Darryl Short. "Still I am a United who went on Wednesday and I would welcome Phil Neville or Nicky Butt back. We've got to have been the worse side to win the league."
2 min: It's loud. Rooney is dropping deep behind Welbeck, who's much further forward. Nani, who's been pathetic of late, gets off to an inauspicious start with a foul throw. You're meant to see that on a Sunday, but on Hackney Marshes, not here.
3 min: City have started very well, dominating possession and pressing United back. Johnson, who has something to prove today, knocks a Messi-style pass down the inside-right channel for Milner to chase. No United midfielder goes with him as Milner hares into the area and Ferdinand has to be very alert to steam across and boot it out for a throw. Milner was very nearly in on Lindegaard there.
5 min: This opening would indicate that if it turns into a football game, City will win. Aguero flicks a pass through to Silva, just outside the United area. He should shoot but decides to Arsenal it, and Ferdinand again stops Milner getting on to the ball. City look very confident indeed. United need to get through this spell - they've barely got out of their own half yet. "In your photo, why does Scholes look like his head has been photoshopped on?" asks John Stapely. "Is it all part of some dastardly Ferguson Dr Frankenstein type experiment involving Scholes' head with a youth team players' body?"
7 min: Here's another glaring sign of City's eagerness to press United high up the pitch, much like Barcelona. Lindegaard waits an age to clear the ball and before he knows it, Aguero's all over him like a cheap suit, charging the goalkeeper's clearance behind for a goal-kick. Lucky. That could have gone anywhere. "Oliver Lewis is right, Barça have an intelligent squad," notes Cecilia Marjakangas. "Although, I can see just a few of them really becoming coaches: Xavi (the natural successor to Guardiola), Iniesta, Mascherano, and Victor Valdes a goalkeeping coach. The one least likely to go into coaching: Dani Alves. He'd be bored silly. Messi also would find better things to do: probably dedicating his life to his awesome charity, Fundacion Leo Messi. However, Scholes is the playmaker United need. There is no-one else. They should have signed Sneijder in the summer... And he is, in my opinion, the all-time best English player. Past his prime, but still. Also greatly admired by one Xavier Hernández i Creus."
8 min: This is a big day for Adam Johnson, whose opportunities have been limited this season. He needs to take his chance today and prove he can take on the best; word is, he's never really shone against a big side. He takes on Evra, who was recently given a torrid time by Jamie Mackioe and wins a free-kick on the right. Kolarov blasts it straight into the wall. Foul throws, wasted free-kicks, English football.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-1 Manchester United (Rooney, 10 min): Told you not to write them off. For the first time in the game, United get into City's half, Giggs finding Rooney in space 30 yards from goal. He spreads the ball out to the right for Valencia, who clips a delicious cross back into the middle. Rooney arrives late - here, a bit like Paul Scholes - and gets in between City's defenders to power a wonderful, unstoppable header into the top-left corner, the ball clanging in off the underside of the bar. Pantilimon had no chance. His first touch is to take the ball out of his own net. The old Rooney-Valencia combination comes to the fore again.
12 min: INCREDIBLE! VINCENT KOMPANY IS SENT OFF! What a start. He lunged in two-footed on Nani with his studs up, drawing a furious reaction from Rooney and co. It was a forceful, strong challenge, but it was low, and he did get the ball. Chris Foy, however, shows the red card without any hesitation whatsoever.
14 min: This is a pulsating game. No matter that City are down to ten men, they've very nearly hit back instantly. After some sloppy play by United in their own half, De Jong's cute header comes to Aguero 30 yards from goal. He runs at the United defence and then tries to shape a curler into the top-right corner, but Lindegaard reads it well, flying to his left and clawing the effort behind. Great play all round. Johnson whips the corner in and Richards, under pressure, heads wide.
16 min: United are down to ten men now. But only because Phil Jones is off getting treatment on a knock. "Just wanted to thank Chris Foy for ruining the game," says J.R. "I find that call, as you say, shambolic. (and for the record I am a complete neutral. Well, I sort of like West Brom but that's another story." I can't agree with that red card. On the sports desk, the consensus is that Chris Foy was wrong. He is a terrible referee though, as he showed in the Stoke v Spurs game last month.
18 min: Johnson is seeing plenty of the ball over on the right. He teases Evra again, and stabs in a low cross that Smalling clears. Interestingly City haven't made a substitution yet. Milner has gone to right-back, with Micah Richards moving back into the middle. "No one appealed there, not even Nani who was supposedly fouled," says Paul Ruffley. "Pathetic decision from a pathetic referee." Well, Rooney appealed.
20 min: Giggs wraps his legs around Aguero's and brings him down. Naturally the home fans scream for retribution, the red card still fresh in the memory. It's just a free-kick though. I fear it's going to be like this for the next 70 minutes now.
21 min: Nani didn't even go down, let alone appeal, when Kompany slid in. It's arguable that it's not even a free-kick.
22 min: Aguero slips a pass inside to Kolarov, whose fierce effort is blocked by a United defender. City's fans cry for handball. Nothing doing. City have responded well to the red card and are still seeing most of the ball, despite being down to ten men. The problem for them, as the game goes on, is that there isn't really anyone on the bench who can change the game for them.
24 min: The brilliant Silva dances in from the United, going past a succession of United players, before his low sighter from 18 yards out is deflected wide by Ferdinand, who's been immense so far. Johnson's corner is punched away by Lindegaard.
25 min: Chris Foy is enraging the blue half of Manchester. Jones chops down Aguero in a harmless area, and again there's no yellow card. The home crowd are getting more and more wound up. "I'm a United fan and even I can see that wasn't a red card," says Simon Chamberlain. "I want the chance to win this fair and square, not by getting a blatantly wrong decision in our favour."
26 min: City fans shouldn't be too worried though, the numbers will be evened up once Scholes comes on. "It feels a little fairer with city having only 10 men," honks Tom Mackintosh.
27 min: Aguero's doing it all on his own at the moment. Ferdinand's sloppy pass across is own area to Jones is seized upon on the left flank by Nasri, who instantly finds Aguero. He takes on Ferdinand, goes inside and then out, before firing high into the side-netting from a tight angle, with absolutely no support coming from any of his team-mates. Jones and Ferdinand then have a robust exchange of views, presumably using industrial language.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-2 Manchester United (Welbeck, 30 min): What a brilliant goal this is. Nani finds Evra on the overlap on the left. He fires a low cross into the area towards Welbeck. It's half-cleared by Lescott, whose clearances clatters off the unsuspecting Nasri's head. The ball spins up into the air and a fatal moment of hesitation from De Jong allows Welbeck to acrobatically swivel and loop an astonishing volley with his right boot into the bottom-right corner, the ball looping gloriously past Pantilimon, whose 6ft 8in frame couldn't get anywhere near it. Who expected this?
33 min: That was a marvellous finish from Welbeck. That is all.
34 min: Ironic cheers from the City fans greet a yellow card for Welbeck, who earned it for an innocuous trip on Kolarov. "Is there a reason Joe Hart is on the bench?" says Diane Peters. I assume he's just been rested with the Carling Cup semi-final against Liverpool coming up on Wednesday.
36 min: David Beckham is in the crowd. So's Roy Keane. Ferguson should bring them all back. Now Nani has been booked for something or other.
38 min: Rooney nonchalantly hammers a drive miles wide from 25 yards out. United are taking the mickey a little here. "Chris Foy is a brilliant ref and acted with the 1-6 still in mind," says Raymond Starke. "It's just like in the youth teams during training; one team was too strong and then the trainer just took one kid out so that the other team could stage a comeback. The result: everybody goes home happy! Brilliant piece of psychology!"
39 min: PENALTY TO MANCHESTER UNITED! This is getting farcical now, though it's a clear penalty, Kolarov sliding in and taking out Welbeck, who was through on goal.
GOAL! Manchester City 0-3 Manchester United (Rooney, 39 min): Rooney's penalty is poor, hit to the Pantilimon's left, the keeper guessing correctly and getting there with ease. But when your luck's not in, your luck's not in, and the rebound comes straight back out to Rooney, and he has the simple task of heading into the empty net. 6-0 anyone? This could end up anything now.
40 min: City have completely gone to pieces at the back since the second goal. Valencia speeds down the right flank with no City player near him, but his cross to the far post for Nani is wasteful.
42 min: Rooney, now on a hat-trick, tries to bend one into the far corner with his right foot, but it's straight at the goalkeeper. "The press pack made a big deal of Mancini's card-waving against Liverpool," says Sasu Laaksonen. "Do you think the same treatment will be dished out to Rooney for his part in Kompany's sending off?" I have no problem with card-waving. It should be encouraged. Who really cares? It's not cheating, it's just gamesmanship.
44 min: United's fans are doing the Poznan.
45 min: There will be two more minutes of Cityitis.
45 min+1: Javier Hernandez would have scored this. Valencia drills a low, undefendable cross into the six-yard box. Welbeck sticks out his foot but it's too quick for him to make proper contact, and the ball drops well wide of the left post. It very nearly got seriously embarrassing for City there.
45 min+2: "On the subject of penalties I would like to put forward two suggestions," says Mo Jones. "1) the player who misses cannot follow up with the rebound 2) the person who is fouled must take the penalty." Why?
Peep! Peep! The half-time whistle is greeted by boos from the City fans and gloating from the United end. This one might well be over. I must admit I didn't see this coming.
Half time: Manchester City 0-3 Manchester United. Brace yourself, Chris Hoy.
"Silly question from an outsider," says Paul Szabo. "You have been doing this for a century; the referee has always been the most important person in the ground; so why don't you have enough good referees?"
"I'll be watching this at half time - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIsqOxyz_KM - Spurs 3 Ten Man City 4 in the "Greatest Comeback of all Time"," says Paul Ruffley. "Well you've got to dream..."
"Not sure about the proposed rule about the taker not being able to hit the rebound, but surely the second rule is just a clear case of playground 'makers takers'?" says Jack Patterson. What if it's handball?
"The Man City number 19 must not be enjoying winning that competition to pretend to be a professional footballer," says Tristan Murphy.
"Never mind this game, I fear City are really going to suffer without Vince Kompany, depending on how many games' ban he gets," says Cecilia Marjakangas. "Yaya's gone to Africa as well... And Kompany is, alongside Coloccini, the best defender in the Premier League. Foy got the decision woefully wrong. And I'm a neutral in this game, being a Culé. I think Joey Barton might have a few things to say about this decision as well. Always a pity when a ref affects matches like this. Poor innocent Chris Hoy better get prepared for Twitter abuse again..."
"The only reason the red card decision is even being questioned is that nani wimped out and jumped clear, fair enough given he could have broken his leg," says Devin Till. "Two-footed lunging tackles now get red cards, and for good reason; they break legs and give unfair advantage to thugs over players."
Roy Keane reckons that Vincent Kompany gave Chris Foy a decision to make. He said that because Nani was never going to go in for the challenge with Kompany, the City captain didn't need to go in two-footed. It's a fair point.
46 min: Here we go again. It's a bit pointless now. The main aim for City now is not to concede six. Pablo Zabaleta is on for Adam Johnson and David Silva is off for Stefan Savic, so City are already looking towards the Liverpool game on Wednesday. Disappointingly United haven't done the gentlemanly thing and brought on Jonny Evans, just to make it interesting. "Kompany was correctly shown red for serious foul play," says Michael Jake Shaffer. "The rule states that a player commits this infringement when they use "excessive force" when challenging for the ball. FIFA has further clarified this by noting that a player who lunges into a challenge with both feet, or shows his studs when going into a challenge commits serious foul play. What no one seems to remember is that serious foul occurs even if the player makes contact with the ball. We can argue about if the rule is correct, but there is no point in saying Foy got it wrong, when all he did was apply the laws of the game. Laws, it bears noting, Kompany should be familiar with. Kompany could have won the ball in any number of other ways, BUT he lunged into a two footed, studs up tackle in the middle of the pitch. Yes, he won the ball, but he did so with excessive / unnecessary force and with a disregard for the safety of his opponent. By the rules, a red card." I can't decide either way. I'm so confused. Just ignore me.
47 min: The shouting begins again. Richards goes on a surging run towards United's half and is bundled over by Evra, who's booked. The free-kick is in a promising position, around 25 yards from goal and made for a left-footer.
GOAL! Manchester City 1-3 Manchester United (Kolarov, 48 min): Maybe City should have left David Silva on. After all, could one of the great comebacks of all time probably be on? Well, maybe not. This is another fine goal, Kolarov curling the ball up and over the wall and low into the bottom-right corner. That's a lovely free-kick, Lindegaard given no chance at all.
50 min: The 6-1 is on then. "Once again, football is making fools of us all," says Justin Kavanagh. "You could see this ending up Noisy Neighbors 1 - 6 Crumbling Empire (guest-starring Legendary Veterans)."
51 min: I hear Kompany will miss four games as he's already been sent off this season and it was a straight red card. United look to restore their three-goal advantage, the excellent Valencia getting down the right and standing up a cross to Nani, who's leaning back as he heads past the left post. "Lack of cover for Yaya Toure more exposed, to quote a fondly remembered Fiver, than a shorn sheep on Page 3 of Ewe Stunnah magazine?" says Phil Podolsky. I'm not watching the the game so I haven't the faintest, but what a player he is anyway." They do miss him; De Jong isn't anywhere near his class.
52 min: Rooney wants his hat-trick. [Makes mental note to self to include that line in Pulitzer application: footballer wants hat-trick] He receives a pass from Valencia on the edge of the area and then skims a low drive inches past the right post.
54 min: The last United player to score a hat-trick in this fixture was Andrei Kanchelskis.
55 min: Valencia causes more havoc on the right flank, before pulling the ball back to Jones, whose low effort from 15 yards out is easily blocked. "Did you notice Mancini is wearing a water-repellent coat?" says Daniel Moskowitz." I suppose he has ruined one too many cashmere coats." I can't say that I have, though he has been in Manchester long enough to know.
57 min: Here he comes: Paul Scholes is getting ready to come on. "Is nice to have a dream, but you have to be American to win one of those," says Tom Yates of my Pulitzer dream. We're all basically American these days, dude.
59 min: Rooney slices a dreadful effort well wide from long range. He could have picked a better time to do that, given that Paul Scholes is about to come on.
60 min: The moment has arrived. There's that ginger head again. He comes on to huge cheers from the United end and muted boos from the City fans. This is surreal, though I hope we're all comfortably knowing that he's bound to score. Nani is the player he's replaced.
61 min: Every Scholes touch is being cheered. Having said that, 40 seconds into his return, he very nearly brought down Aguero with a stray leg. You never lose it.
62 min: Valencia runs at the fairly useless Kolarov, who clumsily brings him down. It should be a penalty, but Chris Foy isn't about to give a second one. "I think it would be more accurate to say that City are down to 9 men," says Gene Salorio. "I hadn't realized that Nasri was "playing" until I read the MBM at half time and saw his name pop for inadvertently assisting Welbeck's goal. I believe HG Wells wrote a book about him." It hasn't really worked out for him at City yet.
GOAL! Manchesteer City 2-3 Manchester United (Aguero, 64 min): Oh Paul. Scholes sloppily gives the ball away to Milner over on the right. Milner races away and zips a low cross into the area for Aguero. He's hung back, away from his marker, and cracks a low drive goalwards. It's straight at Lindegaard, but the power and the slippery surface means the keeper can't hold on to it. The ball spins away from him and Aguero is the quickest to react, racing on to the rebound and slamming it in from all of two yards. It really is on now. It! Is! On!
66 min: This has been the most bizarre of Association Football matches. I didn't hear United's fans cheering that touch from Scholes. Still, he has, y'know, just come out of retirement, we can probably cut him some slack.
67 min: I imagine that Ferguson will be livid. Forget about whether City can get a third, the mere fact that the psychological advantage has been eradicated could be hugely important. United were 3-0 up against ten men at half time, but now they're in a spot of bother. City are doing this with half a team. The defiance is remarkable.
69 min: "Dream away, Jacob," says Eugene Montague. "You don't have to be American (or even a U.S. citizen -- there is a distinction) to win a Pulitzer. You just have to have your work published on a "United States newspaper or news site". All you need is for some website here to re-publish the MBM, and you're away..."
71 min: By the way, Scholes is wearing the No22 shirt. A life spent watching old YouTube clips means I know that's the number he wore when he broke into the team.
72 min: Jones swings a tempting cross to the far post from the right, but Richards does well to head away. Moments later, Scholes scorches a shot straight at Pantilimon from 25 yards out. The goalkeeper holds well.
73 min: United have been taking the sting out of the game since City's second, keeping the ball away from their hosts, without really going anywhere with it.
74 min: "If Chris Foy ruined this game then imagine how good it could have been," says James Minch.
75 min: The new slimline Anderson replaces Danny Welbeck for Manchester United.
76 min: What a cross from James Milner. If only City had Dzeko up front, not Aguero and, er, Aguero.
79 min: City have been kept at arm's length for the most part since Aguero's goal. It's probably going to take a set-piece or a mistake from United.
81 min: "Whatever happens in the last 15 it seems clear that the balance of power in Manchester and English football has shifted," suggests Simon McMahon. "In time This result may be viewed as being as important as the 6-1 at Old Trafford earlier this season. The Scholes decision now smacks of desperation and City under Mancini in the second half have made a statement and gained a distinct psychological advantage over United which brings into question Fergie's stated aim of another 3 years. And we still have Peterborough v Sunderland to look forward to. O'Neill for Old Trafford?"
82 min: Oh yeah, Samir Nasri was playing today. The anonymous Frenchman is replaced by Owen Hargreaves, on against his old club with his new side needing a dramatic equaliser...
82 min: United have got away with one. Milner's backheel releases Kolarov down the left. He breaks into the area and tries to cut it back to a team-mate. The ball hits the sliding Jones's leg, and then deflects on to his outstretched arm. City protest long and loud for a penalty, but it's just a corner.
84 min: "I placed a lovely little fiver on 3-2 to Man Utd, with Aguero scoring at any time," says
Sean Ingle Dan Bowen. "Please could all of the players stop trying, now?"
85 min: The indefatigable Milner is penalised for holding the ball between his legs as Ferdinand tries to get to it. That was like something you see in the playground.
86 min: Aguero goes down clutching his face on the right, after Evra's arm caught his face. There was nothing in it really, but a free-kick is given, from which chaos ensues in the United area. Lindegaard comes for the free-kick, but can't get any purchase on the punch, leading to a spot of head tennis. The ball could have ended up anywhere, with the goalkeeper stranded, but finally United got it clear. City came straight back though, De Jong charging down the right flank and crossing towards Richards, who tried to emulate Rooney's overhead kick, only to miss the ball.
87 min: During that scramble, Savic ended up with a cut on his head. For the time being, City are down to nine men.
88 min: Savic is back on now.
90 min: There will be three minutes more for City to salvage something.
90 min+2: This is the final chance, surely. Zabaleta knocks a pass down the line for Richards, who gets there before Ferdinand, who clumsily brings him down,. Ferdinand is booked. It's just outside the area, in a similar position from where Kolarov scored the first goal.
90 min+3: Kolarov slams the free-kick straight at Lindegaard. He can only pat it down and is very lucky the rebound span away from Lescott, who was bearing down on him.
90 min+3: A final corner for City, the cue for Pantilimon to come forward. Kolarov takes it and the keeper gets to the ball, only to head away from goal, natural instinct taking over. That would have been all this game needed.
Peep! Peep! Peep! And there is the final whistle. What a very strange game. United hold on - just. The holders are out, but they haven't lost much pride today. Predictably Chris Foy gets a hot reception as he walks off the pitch.
Post-match thoughts: In an odd way, City may well be the happier of the two sides, given that United made such hard going of it against ten men in the second half. They'll be disappointed to have lost their grip on the trophy they won last season, but United have been unable to truly get revenge for the 6-1 at Old Trafford. It's impossible to say either what would have happened with any certainty, but without the very controversial Kompany red card, United would not have been 3-0 up at half time. Indeed before the first goal, they didn't get out of their half. What with the return of Paul Scholes, maybe there's some magic left in the FA Cup yet. Thanks for reading and emailing. Bye.