French international Paul Pogba led Manchester United from two goals down to snatch a stunning victory at Etihad Stadium, against rivals Manchester City.
City, the runaway leaders in the English Premier League had a comfortable 2-0 lead in the first half of the Manchester derby and were looking to pop the champagne for winning the title 45 minutes away, when Pogba brought them back to earth with a brace in ten minutes.
With an assist from Ander Herrera and Alexis Sanchez, Pogba, once world’s most expensive footballer, scored the first goal that marked United’s revival in the 53rd minute.
Two minutes later, with Sanchez providing a perfect cross into the City area, Pogba was on song again, with yet another goal.
Chris Smalling, 14 minutes after shot United ahead with the third goal. And there was nothing the City players, who dominated possession, did not do to change their misfortune—the efforts just did not work.
The famous victory for United at Etihad will now make City wait another week or more to celebrate winning the title. City’s loss was their second in the week, after suffering a 0-3 loss to Liverpool in the UEFA Cup quarter-finals on Wednesday.
City now lead the league with 84 points, with six games remaining. Manchester United are second with 71 points.
Pogba, before the derby, had endured a desperately disappointing season having often been dropped by Jose Mourinho for United’s biggest games.
But after so much criticism, Pogba showed why he was the world’s most expensive player when United splashed out £89 million to bring him back to the club from Juventus in 2016 by hauling United back into a game that looked lost at half-time.
Guardiola kept his pre-match promise to prioritise Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Liverpool with City needing to overturn a 3-0 first leg deficit.
Kevin de Bruyne, a leading candidate for player of the year awards, was left on the bench alongside Gabriel Jesus and City’s all-time top goalscorer Sergio Aguero.
Guardiola and Mourinho have a long-running rivalry dating back to their time in charge of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively.
And the game quickly settled into the usual pattern when the two face off with City dominating possession and United happy to get plenty of men behind the ball.
Yet, for all City’s possession, just like when City won 2-1 at Old Trafford in December, it was from a set-piece that United were undone.
City’s Abu-Dhabi owners have splashed an estimated 878 million euros($1billion) over the past decade to assemble a squad that has tilted the balance of power in Manchester from red to blue.
Kompany was one the Emiratis’ first purchases, and he was a fitting scorer on what seemed destined to be a historic day.
The Belgian outmuscled Smalling to power home Leroy Sane’s corner on 25 minutes.
Five minutes later City doubled their lead in a style that has characterised their season as Gundogan brilliantly turned onto Sterling’s pass before slotting into the far corner.
City should have been out of sight by half-time as Guardiola screamed in frustration after Sterling fired two glorious chances well over the bar.
Unlike in many big games this season, Mourinho played Pogba in his favoured role on the left of a midfield three.
Like the rest of his teammates, Pogba was overrun in the first 45 minutes, but came alive to slot home from Ander Herrera’s cushioned pass with his chest to get United back into the game eight minutes after the break.
That goal was the first Mourinho’s men had scored away from home against top-five opposition in the Premier League all season.
And they soon had two in two minutes when Alexis Sanchez picked out Pogba’s late run into the box and his header beat Ederson low to his right-hand side.
City’s Champions League hopes were likely ended by conceding three times in 19 minutes at Anfield in midweek.
And United took just 16 minutes to complete an incredible turnaround when Smalling capitalised on some slack City marking to turn home Sanchez’s free-kick.
*With reports by AFP