Manchester City took control in the English Premier League title race by beating rivals Manchester United 1-0 at Etihad Stadium on Monday.
Vincent Kompany’s header in first-half stoppage time earned Roberto Mancini’s hosts all three points, sending them above United and into top spot on goal difference.
City can now afford to match United’s results in the final two games of the league campaign to seal their first league title of the Premier League era.
Silencing the home fans would have been a priority for Sir Alex Ferguson’s visitors and the defending champions were able to settle quickly in the opening minutes.
Nani exchanged passes with Ryan Giggs from a corner to deliver a cross which City goalkeeper Joe Hart could only punch to Michael Carrick.
The midfielder’s volley was blocked by the chest of Vincent Kompany, drawing optimistic appeals of handball from the United players.
City did not muster their first meaningful attack until the 15th minute, when Carlos Tevez’s low cross was cut out by Phil Jones after Samir Nasri had weaved through the United midfield.
Kompany was booked for a foul on Rooney to the displeasure of the City supporters, but Mancini’s men remained focus on the matter at hand and finished the first 45 minutes well on top.
As the half wore on Sergio Aguero hacked a volley wide from close range and Pablo Zabaleta narrowly failed to get good contact on a left-footed effort from a similar distance.
The United resistance was stern and it seemed City had fallen into a lull, despite their monopoly on possession.
But they would go in at the break with a deserved lead following David Silva’s well-taken corner.
Joleon Lescott’s cunning positioning prevented Chris Smalling from tracking Kompany and the City captain rose unchallenged to thump his header past David De Gea.
After the break, United struggled to force opportunities due to City’s narrow and congested midfield unit, leading Ferguson to introduce forward Danny Welbeck just before the hour mark.
Mancini opted for safety first, despite the visitors’ lack of attacking threat.
Holding player Nigel de Jong replaced Tevez and dropped to a position alongside midfielder Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry, limiting United’s chances further still.
In their desperation to find a way back into the contest, the visitors began to look increasingly stretched.
On the counter, Toure rocketed a low shot just wide of De Gea’s left post, having been given more license to push on following De Jong’s introduction.
The Dutchman himself earned a yellow card for a foul on Welbeck which seemed to infuriate Ferguson.
The 70-year-old exchanged several choice words with counterpart Mancini, an uncharacteristic loss of cool perhaps reflective of the high stakes and United’s apparent helplessness.
Toure narrowly missed again from 20 yards before Ashley Young entered the fray as a last roll of the dice for United.
It was City, though, who went closest to adding to the scoreline.
Gael Clichy was denied by De Gea after shooting from edge of the box, before Nasri took too long to pull the trigger from point blank range.
City saw out the time remaining to earn a potentially decisive victory, and replace the defending champions at the top of the table.
Mancini’s side, with a goal difference eight better than that of United, go away to Newcastle next week before hosting Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the season.
United meanwhile are at home to Swansea on Sunday before an away match at Sunderland on the last day.
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