MANCHESTER — At times during Manchester City’s 4-1 Derby win over Manchester United on Sunday, you could be forgiven for thinking you were at a boxing match.
Vincent Kompany and Wayne Rooney were throwing their weight about, with the central defender and center forward involved in a real ding-dong battle at the Etihad.
And the Manchester City captain landed the knockout blow.
In the 50th minute, Kompany nonchalantly intercepted a pass in his own half before playing the ball forward and striding into the Manchester United half with real intent. His run pulled away United’s defenders and allowed Jesus Navas to pick out Samir Nasri to smash home City’s fourth goal and seemingly finish United off as they were on the ropes.
Kompany was on his knees next to United goal, screaming with joy after he’d started the move and run a full 70-yards to help create the goal.
Yet after the win, City’s captain was typically level-headed about the resounding victory that he marshaled from the back.
“We have been looking forward to this fixture for a long time,” Kompany said. “We need to win these kinds of games and we have an unbelievable home record. So there was no reason why today we should have been scared of the opposition. We did play with two strikers, two very good strikers, and defensively we’ve had a very good record for the past three years. So we knew that we could attack and still defend well. But mainly I think we stayed so calm. At 2-0, we had to absorb a little bit, but we always stayed very calm.”
And Kompany seemed cool, calm and in control throughout, as he stepped in time and time again to break down Manchester United’s attacks and get City moving forward.
And despite Rooney’s best efforts, Manchester City’s captain was the clear winner in their Sunday afternoon slugfest.
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher called Kompany’s display “the best defensive performance” he has ever seen, and few would argue with that. The 27-year-old Belgian was all over Rooney and when he wasn’t winning every aerial battle, he was also intercepting the ball with relative ease from a side-on position, hardly putting a foot wrong the entire game.
But, to Rooney’s credit, the Manchester Untied attacker also played extremely well. Especially without his usual partner in crime, Robin Van Persie, who missed out with a groin injury. Rooney hassled, chased and harried City’s defense, and he deserved his stunning late goal that proved to be nothing more than a consolation.
“I have go to say, I thought that arguably Wayne Rooney was the best player on the pitch today,” United manager David Moyes said afterwards. “He certainly didn’t deserve to be on the losing team, that was for sure. He was outstanding, and what I remember back to probably as good a Wayne Rooney as I’ve seen on that showing today.”
The performances of Rooney and Kompany were exceptional.
Rooney landed plenty of cheap-shots throughout the fiery encounter, and was eventually booked in the 29th minute after “persistently infringing the laws of the game”, as referee Howard Webb will file in his report.
After being dominated by Kompany in the early stages, perhaps Rooney’s frustration was bubbling up, as he first crudely fouled Aguero down in the far right corner in the 14th minute, then Rooney twice challenged Kompany unfairly in quick succession. The second time was an aerial clash and as Rooney’s now famous headgear fell off, a huge roar went up from the Etihad Stadium as the 27-year-old striker was visibly coming off second best in his mammoth battle with Kompany.
For a neutral, it was tremendous clash between Rooney and Kompany all afternoon. A real old-fashioned duel that you don’t often see these days between a center forward and center half.
It was refreshing to see, as both men traded blows and got up, dusted themselves off and carried on with the game.
Rooney produced his final ‘Haymaker’ late on, even though at that point Kompany had already delivered the knockout blow. The striker beautifully curled home a free kick from 30 yards that silenced the home crowd for a few moments. With that goal, Rooney had his 11th tally in the Manchester Derby, making him the all-time leading scorer in the great rivalry. A small milestone on a disappointing day.
On Sunday in Manchester, a slugfest took place between Kompany and Rooney… and the Man City man came out on top.
It was brilliant to watch.