Ecstasy at the Etihad - but City have not won the title yetThere has quite possibly never been a day in human history when the word 'Manchester' has been spoken and written so frequently as yesterday.
A significant percentage of that potential record came from Jim White, Sky Sports News' hyperactive cheerleader-in-chief who was given the keys to the Etihad Stadium as part of the day-long pre-match build-up to the Manchester derby, and he ran amok like Charlie in the chocolate factory.
White got to paint "the famous Etihad penalty spot" at one end of the pitch, explore the changing room and meet the ground staff, all the while booming hyperbolic statements about the pant-wetting rollercoaster ride that was to come.
In the end it was not as unmissable as we had all been led to believe, but the Manchester derby was still an enjoyable encounter — deservedly won 1-0 by City - which has set up an exciting denouement to this season's Premier League title race. Sometimes the stakes alone are enough to elevate an average match.
The two biggest talking points from the 90 minutes did not come from the game itself. Niall Quinn's wonderfully partisan co-commentary, which included some quite breathtaking turns of phrase ("Look at the tenacity on his face!") saw him take a battering on Twitter, while the touchline confrontation between Alex Ferguson and Roberto Mancini was pure theatre.
Not so long ago it would most likely have been Manchester City who would have set out to contain and stifle their local rivals into submission. Last night, it was Manchester United who came with the sole aim of claiming a goalless draw which would have all but won them the title. Had it been City going to Old Trafford and not registering a single shot on target, as United did last night, Mancini would have been vilified.
Without any nod to the grand occasion the pre-match hype told us it would be, Ferguson's side paid for their lack of enterprise when Vincent Kompany headed home from a corner. It was a classic offensive pick that would not have been out of place in the NBA which led to the City skipper putting his side ahead just before half-time.
Perhaps Fergie is as sick of that cider advert as Early Doors, but his rejection of Plan B proved his side's undoing. Meanwhile, Mancini may have finally convinced his doubters that bringing Nigel de Jong off the bench is not always the uber-negative move it is perceived to be. The Dutch brawler's introduction midway through the second half allowed the imperious Yaya Toure to move further forward and pile the pressure on United, denying them the chance to mount one of the concerted late comebacks which have become their stock in trade.
The win puts Mancini's side top of the table, albeit on goal difference, with two games left to play. As such, this win will count for nothing unless City finish off the job, starting with Sunday's trip to Champions League-chasing Newcastle before they host relegation-battling Queens Park Rangers on the final day.
If City don't seal the deal with two more wins then this season's league double over United — which of course includes that 6-1 drubbing of the champions at Old Trafford back in October - will be rendered as a footnote rather than a landmark pair of results that shifted the paradigm of English football.
City's last double over United (2008/09), United 1-4 Liverpool (2008/09), Chelsea 5-0 United (1999/2000) and Newcastle 5-0 United (1996/97) all came in seasons that ended with United winning the title.
With United slated to host Swansea City and travel to Sunderland in their final two fixtures, the onus is very much on City to return from Tyneside with all three points, as either side dropping points now will likely prove catastrophic. Both sides have each bottled their league leads once this year. Surely it will not happen again now.
Last night's game was billed as the biggest ever in the Premier League. So how big does that make this weekend's clash at St James' Park?
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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What do you want to know lads? Top of the league. Well done City. I love (Mancini), he's so cool, he's almost as cool as me. Viva La Belgium!" — Former Oasis frontman and celebrity City fan Liam Gallagher gives an impromptu press conference after the match before swanning off with his arm around Kompany. Top, sorted, madferit etc.
FOREIGN VIEW: "I would prefer my daughter to be pregnant than for us to get relegated." — Real Betis coach Pepe Mel's unusual rallying cry to his players as his side look to confirm their place in La Liga for next season.
COMING UP: There will be lots of Manchester derby reaction, including Jim White's take on the evening's events at the Etihad and what City's victory means for the Euro Club Index.
Plenty of live action for you this evening, with live coverage of Liverpool v Fulham and Stoke City v Everton kick off in the Premier League at 19:45, while in Serie A there's Chievo v Roma (17:00) and Napoli v Palermo (19:45).