A blistering start at Old Trafford saw Sergio Aguero open the scoring after just eight minutes played before Young quickly pulled the two teams back on level terms. United pushed on from there and Fellaini scored to give his side the lead going into the break.
Following the restart, United somehow missed the opportunity to make it 3-1 when Michael Carrick’s low drive was scrambled away by Joe Hart. They didn’t dwell on the missed opportunity and Mata eventually made it 3-1 before Smalling sealed the win with a header twenty minutes from time.
Aguero pulled a goal back for City late on but it was too little, too late for Manuel Pelligrini’s men.
In such a massive game it was important for United to get on the ball early and establish some control from the first whistle, particularly in the middle of the park. Unfortunately, they made a bad start to the match.
City were relentless in their pressure of United and thoroughly deserved their opening goal, although they were helped by some ball-watching from Carrick and Antonio Valencia. Thankfully for Louis van Gaal’s side, City produced some questionable defending of their own which led to Young’s equaliser. It was a big test for United to see how they coped under intense pressure early on and they hardly passed it with flying colours.
United were poor during the first ten minutes or so but they grew into the game as the first half went on. As City tired and relented their pressure, Fellaini, Juan Mata and Ander Herrera were able to exude their influence on the match. Eventually, a brilliant ball from Young was met by Fellaini, who powered it past Hart and into the net.
There was an element of fortune about United’s first goal but their second was a brilliantly constructed strike. Van Gaal would have been delighted with how United gradually imposed themselves on the game as they went in for half-time with a 2-1 lead.
How was that not a red card? Kompany’s wild, studs-up challenge on Daley Blind was a textbook definition of a red. Referee Mark Clattenburg and his linesman did not see it that way and only gave the City captain a yellow.
To be fair to the officials, they did deliberate before making a decision but there was no doubt that it was the wrong one. After Rooney was wrongly denied a penalty against Aston Villa last weekend, it was a difficult one to swallow for United.
United’s excellent start to the second half owed a lot to the performance of Carrick, who gradually took complete control of the game. Pulling the strings in midfield, he regularly found his teammates with a range of intelligent passing. Thanks to the midfielder’s good work, United looked far more dynamic in their attacking play than their opponents.
On any other day, his display would have been capped with a goal but Hart somehow kept his low shot out of the City net.
The good feeling is well and truly back at Old Trafford
What a win. The confidence was steadily growing at Old Trafford following superb wins against Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur and this result well and truly brought United back into the fore.
Six games ago, United were staring at a daunting set of fixtures and a struggle to finish in the top four of the Premier League. Now, Champions League football next season looks a near certainty. United are finally back where they belong.