Chris Smalling Manchester United Michael Oliver
Manchester United defender reacts after receiving a red card from referee Michael OliverReuters

Chris Smalling will still be wondering what on earth he was thinking when he, first, picked up the most silliest of yellow cards you can ask for, before going in for a ridiculously stupid tackle, while on a yellow, to earn a second booking and with it the red card which put Manchester United in deep, deep trouble against Manchester City.

The moment Smalling had that brain freeze in the 39th minute, the Manchester Derby, which had been tantalisingly poised, turned the home team's way, with the Etihad faithful expecting a goal-fest.

That goal-fest looked more likely when Sergio Aguero struck just past the hour mark, but that twist in the tale was not quite done as Manchester United, ten men and all, gave it a right old go, and then some, in the final 20 minutes, with Manchester City somehow, by the proverbial skin of their teeth, hanging on to pick up their fourth straight victory in the Manchester Derby – the first time that has happened since 1970.

The win came Manchester City's way after Smalling picked up two silly yellow cards. The first came when he unnecessarily tried to block City goalkeeper Joe Hart from making a clearance, before, a few minutes later, he dived into a tackle on James Milner and only took the player, leaving referee Michael Oliver with little choice but to send the Manchester United defender off.

Manchester City should have put the game to bed after playing with an extra man for over a half, and while they wilted under the Manchester United wave of pressure in the second half of the second 45, they will also feel aggrieved by the fact that they had three pretty good – one nailed on – penalty shouts turned down.

Aguero was the "victim" of two of those, as City's supreme striker first went down under the challenge of Marouane Fellaini inside the box, which could have easily been given as a penalty – it was one of those which depends on your point of view, but there was contact from the Belgian, even if the Argentine's reaction was a little over the top.

That shout came just before halftime, with the second one coming right on the stroke of it, and this was as clear as they come.

A ball over the top saw Yaya Toure ready to plant his foot to smash the ball home from eight yards, only for Marcos Rojo to take out the midfielder. Michael Oliver, who did pretty well in this high-profile match, decided to blow the whistle for halftime instead, with the referee perhaps swayed by what had gone on earlier, while thinking a penalty so late in the first half, would probably be not the best of ideas.

Manchester City needed to come in and step on the gas in the second half, and they did, with Aguero again seeing a claim for a penalty waved away, before the lethal marksman struck like only he can.

A wonderful through ball from Toure to Gael Clichy, who only came in as a last-minute replacement for Aleksandr Kolarov, who got injured in the warm-up, saw left-back pick out the perfect pass for Aguero from the left. The Argentine made no mistake with the finish, thumping the ball past David De Gea, who, after thwarting City a couple of times brilliantly in the first half, could do nothing but pick the ball out of his own net.

The stage was set for Manchester City to go for the jugular, but instead, they got a little nervous as Manchester United poured forward with great gusto.

Wayne Rooney was in inspired form in the final 20 minutes, driving his team forward, as Robin Van Persie first came close, before the skipper himself made a tremendous run, weaving his way past three defenders, to set up a glorious chance.

The ball eventually fell to Angel Di Maria off that run, and the Argentine would have scored the equaliser had Joe Hart not gone down to his right to push the ball away.

Fellaini also had a couple of decent chances to make it 1-1 with that floppy hair and head of his, but Manchester City, just, only just, held fort to put an end to a two-match losing streak.

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