How many times have we seen them doing that over and over again? I still have clear images of that comeback victory against Bayern Munich in 1999, a match that left an everlasting effect within me until today. A match that reminded me of why giving up should never be an option. And the message has been consistently illustrated over the years too. But the script was slightly different last night.
United's defensive vulnerability dominated pre-match headlines, especially after conceding three goals in the first half against Reading last week. But as the first half whistle was blown last night, City's defending appeared to be the new cause for concern.
The Red Devils were oozing with quality in the first half. Valencia combining effortlessly with Rafael down the right flank, while Rooney and van Persie constantly kept the City defence on their toes. And it wasn't surprising to see us take the lead through an attack that was initiated in our own half.
Patrice Evra's pass was chested elegantly by van Persie for the onrushing Ashley Young. The winger drove ahead with the ball before teeing off Wayne Rooney with a low cross. And Wayne just flicked the ball pass three City defenders, before firing a diagonal shot to the bottom corner of the goal, leaving Joe Hart helpless.
The manner in which United constructed the goal depicted their dominance over their neighbours, who stuttered in their own backyard. And their concerns escalated as Vincent Kompany limped out to be replaced by Kolo Toure in defence. It didn't take long for the Red Devils to capitalize and extend their lead.
The dominant displays of our South Americans down the right flank was illustrated once again as Valencia found the overlapping Rafael with a perfectly timed pass. The Brazilian full back pulled a cross into Rooney's path in the penalty box and he made no mistakes by firing home from close range to double United's lead. Yet again, Manchester United exposed the huge loopholes in City's defence.
And just as you thought that City would come out for the second half with a much tighter defence, Ashley Young found the back of the net after Robin van Persie had initially smacked his shot against the bar. However, Ashley's goal was ruled out for offside to Mancin's relief. Per contra, there was more to the Citizens that met the eye.
City were on a comeback mission against the ‘Comeback Kings’ and it pretty much got to a decent start. They piled on the pressure, knowing that United’s shaky defence would be capable of crumbling. Eventually, it worked. A flurry of shots inside the penalty box saw De Gea making several magnificent stops but Yaya Toure was at the right place to roll one into the bottom corner. Having been almost unbeatable throughout the game, City finally exposed us.
Just like Sir Alex said after the game, two magnificent football sides were showcasing quality end-to-end football at the Etihad stadium. The atmosphere was boisterous all night long as City fought hard to restore parity. And when the equalizer finally came in the 85th minute, there wasn’t any element of surprise. Hardly so, because everyone knew it was coming. It was as though United’s comeback ‘aura’ had been transmitted into the veins of those City players.
Zabaleta fired home from long range and the crowd exploded with joy. The comeback was sort of completed as their coveted unbeaten home record would still be intact with a draw. From the despair of defeat, Manchester City were now on their way to earning a draw, or maybe even snatching a last gasp victory. Yes you heard me right, last-gasp victory. Except that the script now had a different but pretty familiar ending to it.
Rafael, who was brilliant throughout the game after being brought off against Reading last week, was fouled in the edge of the area. Our mercurial Dutchman stepped up, and curled one home in injury time to complete a dramatic victory for United.
Many would perceive us as being too accustomed to seeing United make comebacks like that all the time. But the secret to United’s incredible determination lies there. The hunger for victory never goes off. The passion for winning games never dies off. And the support from fans never goes on a downward spiral.
Manchester City tried to make a comeback against the ‘Comeback Kings’ but most importantly they failed. And they failed bigger when Rio Ferdinand was struck by a coin from one of their fans and caused bleeding near his eye. But perhaps that incident served as a reminder to all City fans, that blood and Manchester will always be Red.