Blue moon on the rise ahead of derby clash
OVER the course of the past week, both teams have had one eye on Sunday's Manchester derby, but, after an hour in both the Etihad Stadium and the National Stadium in Bucharest, all that had gone out the window for Manchester City and Manchester United.
Both were drawing in games they needed, and were expected, to win while both managers were likely to be in the firing line if things stayed the same.
Alex Ferguson had played a weakened team against Liverpool last Saturday with the notion of putting out the big guns last night, ensuring a comfortable victory early on and then taking the foot off the gas with City in mind on Sunday.
Back in Manchester, Roberto Mancini replaced jinking winger Adam Johnson six minutes before half-time with a defensive midfielder in Gareth Barry at a time when they were trailing 1-0 and the prospect of another night watching the reactions on City's substitutes bench beckoned.
Mancini explained: "I think Adam can do better than tonight, but I needed another player (Gareth Barry) in the middle and needed to move Yaya (Toure) up front."
It had been United's worst start to a Champions League since they won the competition in 1999, but cometh the hour -- or 64 minutes to be more exact -- cometh the man as Wayne Rooney struck to put United in front from the penalty spot.
Rooney's opener put him to the head of the list of English goalscorers in the Champions League on 25 as he moved ahead of Paul Scholes (24), Frank Lampard (20) and Steven Gerrard (19).
His 26th arrived two minutes into added time, but it was injury-time events back home in Manchester that are likely to have a greater impact on Sunday's derby.
Manchester is well-used to injury-time recoveries to send supporters wild, but it's usually been the red half that goes into raptures.
Last night, however, there was Sergio Aguero's tap-in after City had laid siege to the Villarreal goal that snatched three vital points for Mancini's men and gave them some momentum for Sunday's showdown although, in traditional City style, things didn't always look so smooth.
Less than four minutes into this prematurely pivotal group game, the Italian must have feared history was repeating itself.
A rare loose ball by the usually meticulous midfielder David Silva gifted Villarreal the opening for Cani's atmosphere destroying goal.
Mancini will never write the preface to a manuscript on the art of man-management, but his tactical reshuffle involving Johnson and Barry reaped instant reward thanks to Carlos Marchena's timely own goal on 43 minutes.
Before last night Mancini had won just 19 of his 38 Champions League games, but thanks to Aguero's late clincher that, like much of City's comical past, is now consigned to history as the Italian and his team now look to the future, which starts at Old Trafford on Sunday.
They've been victims of late winners there in the past, but the Argentinian's late goal showed that they may indeed be learning fast.
Mancini later commented: "I said before the game it was important to win and I think we deserved to because we had a lot of chances.
"But Villarreal were very dangerous on the counter-attack because they play football very well."
Asked if the win was important ahead of Sunday's derby the Manchester City boss added: "The derby is a different game."
He was also reluctant to discuss the outcome of today's investigation into Carlos Tevez's alleged refusal to play as a substitute at Bayern Munich last month. "I understand everything, but I would prefer to not speak about this situation," Mancini added. (©Daily Telegraph, London)