Ten-man United were whipped by an outstanding City in a frankly surreal match
In the 1999 documentary film My Best Fiend, director Werner Herzog speaks of his time living with the actor Klaus Kinski. "Kinski had locked himself in this bathroom for days and nights. For forty-eight hours. In his maniacal fury, he smashed everything to smithereens. The bathtub, the toilet bowl, everything. You could sift it through a tennis racket. It was really incredible. I never thought it possible that someone could rave for hours. They called the police in the end, but they left him in peace."
That was pretty much the greatest bathroom-mania-related anecdote of all time. Until, perhaps, yesterday. Whichever stripe of Mancunian you are, blue or red, you really have to love Mario Balotelli. He's the gift that keeps on giving.
It'll be interesting to see what Balotelli gets up to for his next act. By way of suggestion, just throwing some seeds out there, hoping they take root, here's another tale of Kinski's shenanigans while staying Chez Herzog. "One day, Kinski took a huge running start down the corridor while we were eating. I heard a strange noise and then in an explosion the door came off its hinges, crashing into the room. He must have jumped against it at full speed, and now he stood there flailing wildly, completely hysterical, snow-white in the face. He was foaming at the mouth, and he moved like this. Something came floating down like leaves: they were his shirts. His screams were incredibly shrill. He could actually break wine glasses with his voice. And three octaves too high he screamed: 'Klara! You pig!' The thing was, she hadn't ironed his shirt collars neatly enough."
OK, while we're at it, another. "One day a theatre critic had been invited for dinner. He hinted that having watched a play in which Kinski had a small role. He would mention him as outstanding and extraordinary. At once, Kinski threw hot potatoes and the cutlery into his face. He jumped up and screamed: 'I was not excellent! I was not extraordinary! I was monumental! I was epochal!"
Will Balotelli put in another explosive, excellent, extraordinary, monumental and epochal performance today? We'll find out soon enough. The action starts at: 1.30pm.
Some reading matter to while away the time until kick off: Paul Hayward on last year's derby at Old Trafford, Wayne Rooney's bicycle kick in teeth for City.
Manchester United: De Gea, Smalling, Ferdinand, Evans, Evra, Nani,
Fletcher, Anderson, Young, Rooney, Welbeck.
Subs: Lindegaard, Jones, Berbatov, Park, Hernandez, Fabio Da Silva, Valencia.
Manchester City: Hart, Richards, Kompany, Lescott, Clichy, Toure Yaya, Barry, Milner, Silva, Balotelli, Aguero.
Subs: Pantilimon, Zabaleta, Dzeko, Kolarov, Nasri, Toure, De Jong.
Getting it in the neck all next week, from one manager and set of fans, or perhaps both: Mark Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear)
The teams are out and about! Won't be long now. The time-honoured Mancunian aesthetic: United in their red and black, City in their sky blue with white trim. "Klaus might have been as mad as Balotelli squared," writes Gerard Cullen, "but he produced Nastassja and for that we should all be grateful."
And we're off! The most important Manchester derby
for about six months since the late 1960s begins. A shaky start by De Gea, who fluffs a clearance under pressure from Aguero. The ball's soon coming back at the keeper, Aguero again making a nuisance of himself down the inside-left channel, Smalling eventually stepping in his way and shepherding the ball out of play.
2 min: Nani has his first skitter down the wing, haring down the right, the ball eventually bumping out of play. It'd be nice if the entire game pings from end to end like this.
4 min: A determined and skilful run by Young down the left. And that's a corner. Life's too short to describe how the set piece pans out. But after that early jitter by De Gea, United have quickly got themselves onto the front foot. "I fear today's game could set a record for the number of TNT-related puns, both by commentators and MBMers," writes Greg Scully. "While I wish I were witty enough to stop this in its tracks, I also fear that the game will be more likely a damp squib than a true cracker, so I have bowed to the inevitable."
6 min: City stroke it around the back awhile, the idea no doubt being to take the sting out of the game. Time to tip the hat to their very attractive blue-and-white hooped socks, a real taste of the 1930s.
7 min: Another direct run by Young down the left; he's looking to give Richards a torrid time wherever possible. And that's another corner. The ball's sent out to the opposite wing, from where Rooney cuts inside, and looks for Anderson on the far post with a curling, looping cross. The ball finds the United midfielder's head, but only to skim off the top of it. Nice idea, though, and nearly well executed.
9 min: Milner's minute. First he takes a hopeful punt at goal from 30 yards; it's easily marshalled by De Gea. Then, down the left, he clips an in-flight Young, and does very well to escape a booking. Referee Mark Clattenberg makes a big point of gesticulating NO MORE, PAL, as Richards has already made a couple of loose challenges down the same wing, and we're yet to see ten minutes of play. Expect the yellow card to come out soon enough.
11 min: City are struggling to get out of their own half. United can't quite get anything going in attack, though. It's like watching the All Blacks play the All Blacks, or France take on France.
12 min: Young has started this game at full pelt. He latches onto a loose ball, 30 yards out, just to the left of goal, drops a shoulder, and hits a low screamer goalwards. The shot's blocked, though, and doesn't get through to Hart.
14 min: Silva goes on a crazy, skittering dribble down the inside-right channel. He falls over at one point, but still manages to bounce up and keep going. He beats four challenges, but United swarm round him and crowd him out. Eventually City win a corner, Richards taking a swipe from distance, the ball ballooning out of play, but the resulting dead ball is possibly the worst ever hit by man or beast, and God knows there's been some competition over the years.
17 min: Clichy hits a raking crossfield pass, left to right, in the direction of Aguero, who's looking to break down the inside-right channel. Evans positions himself brilliantly to cut the ball out, and head back to his keeper. City are beginning to get into the game now, a little bit at least. United still enjoying most of the ball, though.
21 min: WHAT A GOAL!!! WHAT A T-SHIRT!!! Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City. A bit more of time for City in the United half. First Balotelli, then Clichy, both with crossed from the left. Then Silva has a go, romping down the left, then cutting back to the edge of the area. Balotelli runs in, and threads a positively delicious sidefoot into the bottom-right corner. That was pinpoint. He's then booked, of course, for revealing a t-shirt bearing the legend: WHY ALWAYS ME? Herzog documentary, please!
24 min: That goal's stunned Old Trafford. It was absolutely exquisite. It's stunned United, too, for they're all over the shop at the moment. Clichy's allowed to sprint all the way to the edge of the United area, where he feeds the ball wide right to Silva. The resulting cross into the centre flies just over Balotelli's head.
26 min: Richards tries to beat De Gea from distance. That goal's given City confidence alright. "With all these shout-outs to Klaus Kinski, we're at risk of forgetting Herzog's greatest find, Bruno S.," suggests James Womack. "He seems to have been a Joey Barton in embryo. From the Guardian obituary:
"Bruno is a man whose life in his youth was catastrophic and obviously made him a 'difficult' person to deal with," Herzog explained. "Sometimes he would stop work by ranting against the injustices of the world. I would stop the entire team in their tracks." Herzog would tell them: "Even if it takes three or four hours of non-stop Bruno speaking about injustice we … would all listen. I would always make physical contact with him. I would always grab him and just hold his wrist. Otherwise, he is a man of phenomenal abilities and phenomenal depth and suffering. It translates on the screen like nothing I have ever done translates on to a screen. He is, for me, the Unknown Soldier of Cinema."
"Although I think there is probably a serious injunction in referring to J.B. as the Unknown Soldier of Football."
27 min: Young skidaddles down the left and lifts a dangerous dipping ball towards the far post. Hart goes down to claim. Rooney tries to release Welbeck down the inside-right channel with a slide-rule pass, but his measurements are a wee bit out, and the ball flies through to the keeper. United are trying to rebuild after that shock to the system; they're still enjoying the lion's share of possession.
30 min: Auguero takes down a Hart goal kick and suddenly City are on the attack. United break it down easily enough, but Anderson shanks a clearance out of play. Very un-United like. The ball comes back at United, Toure looking for the top-right corner from distance with a rising volley, the shot sailing harmlessly wide. City have United, if not quite rattled, then at least questioning themselves. "You just know Balotelli's got something else written on the back of his t-shirt," writes Patrick Cullen. "He will score again, he will show what's written on the back, and he will get a second yellow card."
33 min: Young's been United's one danger so far. Again he causes minor levels of bedlam down the left. Corner. Young sends it into the box. Hart punches clear, but Anderson's soon sending a shot in on goal from the edge of the area. It's a decent effort, travelling at pace, but the City keeper is right behind it. "I guess that match prediction has blown up in my face," writes Greg Scully (4 mins). "United look like they need a proper tinderbox to spark their fuse in the final third, or they could bomb at home for the first time in ages."
36 min: Nani dribbles down the right and slips the ball inside for Rooney, who drops a shoulder and hits a rising shot goalwards. Hart is behind it, though. "What was Balotelli actually booked for?" asks Paul Ruffley. "He didn't display a political message, didn't bare his chest, didn't take his shirt off. Must have been the horrendous offence of having a bit of fun."
37 min: Fletcher is in full flow towards the City area, but Richards sticks out a leg to poke the ball out of his path. Brilliant tackle, not that the Old Trafford faithful see it that way. The crowd set the controls for the heart of the funk-o-sphere seconds later, as Anderson clips Silva on the ankle to concede a cheap free kick 30 yards from goal. The free kick is a dismal business, so much so that I don't want to ruin any expensive reputations here by describing it. (OK, I missed who took it. But it was aimless, and useless.)
40 min: Two chances spurned in a minute for United. First Welbeck has Rooney to his left, waiting to break clear into the City box, but his pass pushes his team-mate too far wide left. Then Rooney, wide right of goal, slides the ball into Evans, six yards out in front of goal; the defender miskicks.
41 min: A painful minute for City. First Aguero is clear, albeit at a tight angle, in the United area to the right. But he hesitates when he should shoot, and the chance is gone. Then Kompany is booked for a cynical tug on Nani.
42 min: Anderson has another whack from the edge of the area, but his effort sails wide and high to the left. United are beginning to show signs of recovery, after looking tatty in the wake of Balotelli's goal. "Mention of Bruno S in a Mancunian context should of course prompt a mention of Werner Herzog's Stoszek, the viewing of which finally persuaded Ian Curtis of seminal rib-tickling post punk combo Joy Division to seek an early bath in 1980," writes Ben Carding, providing us all with our light-hearted Sunday afternoon F.U.N. "65,000 United fans will no doubt empathise."
HALF TIME: Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City. Smalling accidentally whacks Balotelli in the mouth, and that's the last action of the half. Not a classic, but what a finish. "I think the real issue of this first half is where can I get these Mister Potato Crisps which United are trying to flog," writes Craig Trainor. "I haven't noticed it since the first 10 minutes. Perhaps they realised it was possibly the cheapest, most abysmally designed, billboard in the history of the Premier League." Here you go. They're a global snack partner of the club, so don't be rude, they're our hosts today.
HALF-TIME MESSAGES FROM YOUR LOCAL STATION:
Adverts don't have jingles like this any more. And companies no longer hawk televisions, without a box, from out the back of a second-hand Vauxhall Chevette. We've moved forward as a nation, but we've not necessarily progressed.
And we're off again! No changes. Fergie comes out of the tunnel clapping furiously, doing his best to work the crowd up into a froth. He'll be up for this, like you need to be told that. City set the ball rolling. United are kicking towards the Stretford End. "France versus France at rugby would be an absolute thrashing, surely?" wonders Dave Hinton. "France on a good day would turn up and absolutely wallop France on a bad day. A bit like the Man City of old, no?"
46 min: RED CARD!!! Manchester United are down to ten men. Balotelli is through on goal, chasing after a lovely ball from Aguero which splits Evans and Ferdinand asunder. On the edge of the area, he tugs Balotelli back; the striker steps on the ball and falls. It's not a penalty, but it is a red for the pull, and the end of the afternoon for Evans.
48 min: The City free kick is blocked by a United wall barely five yards from the ball. City don't complain too vociferously, possibly concluding that the half is going reasonably well for them so far.
50 min: Richards goes down in the area under a challenge from Anderson. The referee suggests it was an accidental coming together. It should have been a penalty, though, Anderson sticking his leg across his opponent's thigh to drop him to the floor.
51 min: Welbeck twists and turns down the left, making it as far as the area, but eventually Lescott takes the ball off him. A fairly high-octane start to this second period. "Could you please settle an office dispute by confirming or denying that the, ahem, back-door-tradesman in that tremendous Granada advert is Michael the bartender from Only Fools and Horses?" writes Robin Parker, who doesn't bother waiting for an answer. "A brandy and cherryade please, Michael!"
54 min: United are a bit of a shambles at the back. Richards cuts inside from the right and is allowed to take a free shot at goal. Luckily for the champions, Richards shanks a risible effort miles wide left.
55 min: Pinball in the City area, as Young takes a shot from the edge of the area. Milner sticks a leg out, the ball flies straight back to Young, who instinctively sticks out a leg and sends an effort not too far wide left.
56 min: Milner wheechs a low, hard cross straight through the United six-yard box from the right. Aguero isn't far away from connecting at the far post. This is like a basketball match at the moment, with the caveat that basketball matches don't usually have a score of 1-0 after nearly one hour's play.
58 min: Some decent pressure from United here, who have responded well to their latest setback. Young diddles around down the left; corner. On the right, Rooney drops a shoulder, can't get a shot away, and finds Anderson, whose effort is deflected out for another corner. Rooney has a low shot after coming inside from the left; Hart gathers. This is hectic, shapeless, and very entertaining.
60 min: WHAT A GOAL II: Manchester United 0-2 Manchester City. Sheer passing brilliance from City, who triangulate down the right. Silva breaks into the area, draws Anderson, and frees Milner towards the byline with a tasty backflick. Milner hammers a low cross towards the far post, where Balotelli sidefoots powerfully home. No t-shirt hi-jinx this time; City are too busy celebrating wildly, for a start. A great goal. If Barcelona had scored it, etc., and so on.
62 min: Anderson is booked for sending Aguero crashing to the floor. At this point, United are all over the show. It's worth remembering, however, that City are City, time-honoured dab hands at coming unstuck at the hands of their neighbours. Or are City now New City? What a half hour of football we've got coming up.
64 min: Silva gains a yard on Smalling down the left, and whips another low cross into the area, this time from the left. Ferdinand is on hand to clear, ahead of Balotelli, lurking with the smell of a hat-trick in his nostrils.
65 min: A double change by United: Nani and Anderson off, Hernandez and Jones on. Hernandez wins a corner down the right with his first touch of the ball.
66 min: Nowt comes of the corner. The ball's shuttled upfield. Evra picks up a booking for showing a couple of studs in a 50-50 challenge with Barry.
69 min: GOAL!!! Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City. This isn't dissimilar to the second goal, another slick passing move, and one that's possibly even better. Toure slides the ball down the inside-right channel for Balotelli, who instantly flicks the ball out to Milner. Milner rolls the ball out to Richards, who drops a shoulder, reaches the byline, and fires a low cross in for Aguero, running in to slide the ball under De Gea. Again, if Barcelona etc.
71 min: Dzeko replaces Balotelli. His first contribution is to hammer a shot from the left-hand side of the box, sending the ball flying just wide right of goal. "This result is all due to the Stone Roses creating a time warp effect," suggests Ronan Gingles. "When they were in their pomp, City spanked United 5-1. They went away (after the first album really) and Fergie's side came to utterly dominate English football. Now they're back along with Norwich and QPR. Good news for Luton Town?"
73 min: "You're getting sacked in the morning," trill the City supporters to Fergie. The dry Mancunian wit.
74 min: It's getting surreal. Silva should have made it four, trying to slot home a dropping ball at the right-hand post. He slices his effort miles over the bar.
75 min: Dzeko is booked for standing on Jones' foot. Nasri comes on for Aguero.
77 min: On the field, Dzeko is sent clear into the area down the inside-right channel by Silva. He looks for the bottom-left corner, but De Gea saves brilliantly with his leg. On the City bench, Balotelli and Aguero are passing the time by smacking each other on the head.
79 min: Smalling is booked for dragging down Richards, as the City man looked to power forward into the box. City's movement is too much for the ten men of United.
81 min: WHAT A BRILLIANT GOAL, THEY KEEP COMING!!! Manchester United 1-3 Manchester City. Fletcher takes up possession in the middle of the City half. He slips a ball to his right, then gets it back immediately from Hernandez. He then sidefoots a beautiful curler into the top-right corner, Hart left with no chance whatsoever. A world-class finish by the Scotland captain. They couldn't, could they?
83 min: Welbeck is the latest United man to suffer the wrath of Clattenburg. He's booked for a late trip on Richards, who was attempting to skidaddle down the right.
85 min: Nasri finds himself in acres down the right, but his cross is cleared with ease by Ferdinand. Old Trafford is pretty quiet, the realisation perhaps that a comeback is still pretty unlikely, even for United.
86 min: Richards is booked for a trip on Young down the left. A United goal would certainly rattle the City nerves. Young swings the free kick to the far post. Barry heads clear powerfully. But the ball's sent back in from the opposite wing, Smalling meeting it ten yards out, and sending a very decent header just over the bar.
88 min: Toure cuts in from the right and tries to curl a shot into the bottom corner. Goal kick. De Gea and Ferdinand somehow to give away a corner from it! Milner is replaced by Kolarov. Anyway, we've forgotten about Mister Potato (see half time). "Currently I'm eating Mister Potato, BBQ flavour," is the breaking news coming from the email account of Mario Rustan. "I need to remind Craig Trainor that MP's sponsorship for MU is targeted for audience in Asia, like those online gambling ads written in several Asian languages attest. Of course, you may find a pack of the chips in your local Asian grocery, especially if by luck the owner, either of Indian or Chinese stock, hails from Malaysia. Anyway, Fletcher scored while I was in the kitchen - thanks to Mister Potato."
90 min: WHAT A FARCE! Manchester United 1-4 Manchester City. After Ferdinand and De Gea's embarrassment, another farce. A corner from the left is met by Barry's head. It's going wide, but Lescott flicks it back in, and Dzeko trundles home.
90 min +1: WHAT A DAY FOR CITY! Manchester United 1-5 Manchester City. Dzeko nutmegs Ferdinand and sends Silva free down the inside-right channel. He slips the ball under the advancing De Gea, and United's misery is complete.
90 min +2: It should be six. Dzeko is free down the inside-left channel, but blazes over. "I have noticed a worrying trend in the evolution of weaponry over this last year," writes Michael Hunt. "Firstly it was Balotelli with darts; pointy hand-propelled projectiles, then Ashley Cole made the leap to the air-rifle; mechanically propelled pellets. Now Balotelli again has stepped up to explosives. At this quite incredible rate of escalation of weapon-complexity how long is it before the footballer is in possession of the nuke? Can't be long now."
90 min +3: IT IS SIX NOW!!! Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City. Silva, who has been outstanding, volleys a pass down the inside-left channel with his back to goal on the edge of the centre circle. Dzeko races clear and slams the ball home. This is one for the ages, putting 1989 into the shade.
FULL TIME: Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City. And that's that. United were battered, and while they will point to being down to ten men, City were nonetheless sensational. The last time United conceded six goals was at Southampton in 1996. On Sky, to his eternal credit, Gary Neville's instant response was a light-hearted: "Can we talk about QPR and Chelsea instead? No, City were magnificent." Indeed they were: Roberto Mancini's smile is wider than Old Trafford, never mind his face. "If only Mancini would take the handbrake off," sighs Adam Hirst.
CLOSEDOWN: A PUBLIC INFORMATION FILM (thanks to Ben Carding):
Pay attention, Mario.