Manchester’s noisy neighbours loud and proud

Two injury-time goals, the second from Sergio Aguero after 93 minutes, brought City a 3-2 victory over QPR, in the most astonishing circumstances at the Etihad Stadium last night.

Far more relevantly, it also ended the club’s 44-year wait for an English league title, at the expense of neighbours and reigning champions United.

As the final whistle brought at end to Manchester United’s 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light, United were champions. City, drawing 2-2 with a Rangers side who were still uncertain whether they would avoid relegation at the expense of Bolton, faced a summer of soul searching and introspection.

Aguero was about to alter that picture dramatically, the final act of unpredictable chaos and mayhem in a season which defied the odds.

The Argentinian forward played a pass into the area which was helped on by Mario Balotelli, Aguero taking the return, skipping past the lunge of defender Nedum Onuoha and burying a shot past the dive of Paddy Kenny.

The scenes that ensued were all that would have been expected of a club that has waited so long to return to the peak of the English game and which, given the billion pound investment made thus far by owner Sheikh Mansour, appears destined to stay there for some time to come.

There was certainly no escaping that mood as the celebrations took place on the Etihad pitch half an hour after the final whistle.

City, always with an eye on their history and tradition, trotted out a variety of legendary former players from their last title success in 1968. But, make no mistake, this is no longer the City that looks back on the halcyon years of Bell, Lee and Summerbee and talks of the good old days.

This nouveau riche club, fuelled unashamedly by Middle East petro-dollars, is all about the future. Given how quickly Roberto Mancini has brought success, it should not only be United, Chelsea and Arsenal who wake up uneasy this morning. It should also be Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

Of course, this would not have been City or a City triumph without a nod to their musical hall past, to the days when they were considered a joke club, the punchline to many a football gag. “If there were cups for cock-ups,” Franny Lee, one of the ‘68 vintage on the pitch after the game once said, “City would have a trophy cabinet full.”

That motto almost came back to haunt the watching Lee although there was little hint of the danger to come as Pablo Zabaleta played a one-two with David Silva after 39 minutes and delivered a shot which Kenny could only parry up over his head and in off the far post.

It looked like being a routine second half, even as news came through that United were ahead at Sunderland but, with Bolton coming back to lead at Stoke, Rangers were currently in the relegation places and desperate.

After 48 minutes, Joleon Lescott made a mess of dealing with Shaun Wright-Phillips’ hopeful through ball and Djibril Cisse strode past Gael Clichy to equalise from his team’s first attack.

City pressed and appeared to have been handed a telling advantage in the 54th minute thanks to their former player Joey Barton, who elbowed Carlos Tevez on the edge of the area, referee Mike Dean consulting with his assistant before showing him a straight red. The dismissal was the spark for a disgraceful scene as players angrily squared up and Barton kicked Aguero from behind as he was leaving the field, attempting to head butt Vincent Kompany for good measure. Balotelli, at that stage on the bench, sprinted on the field to attempt to get to Barton — much to Mancini’s fury.

There was perhaps the sense that City were losing the plot as much as Barton had. Certainly, it appeared that way after 65 minutes when Armand Traore was allowed to sprint down the left and cross into the six-yard box where Jamie Mackie’s diving header bounced down and into the roof of the goal.

It was the signal for a manic final half-hour, City pressing, QPR’s 10-men permanently camped in their own penalty area and every passing second bringing the hosts closer to disaster.

The football fates had other ideas. In the first of five added minutes, Edin Dzeko was unmarked four yards out and headed in David Silva’s corner, the precursor to Aguero’s extraordinary finale. Cups for cock-ups? Now, City are collecting the real thing.


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