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Van Persie free-kick decides dramatic Manchester derby

Robin Van Persie may be a new signing for Manchester United this season, but he seems to have absorbed the club’s reputation for decisive late goals. His stoppage time winner settled the Manchester derby after City had come back to level the match.

Sir Alex Ferguson had told Wayne Rooney that he expected him to score more frequently and the England striker had responded with two first-half goals, City came back strongly in the second half with a goal from Yaya Toure. Pablo Zabaleta’s 86th minute goal seemed to have secured the draw, until Van Persie’s late free-kick gave United a crucial win.

It was an acrimonious match, with several flashpoints that may interest the authorities. Rio Ferdinand left the field with a bloodied brow after appearing to be struck by a missile when celebrating in front of the City fans. Phil Jones also seemed to be inciting the crowd and Sir Alex Ferguson and Carlos Tevez engaged in an ugly exchange.

United’s win gives them a six point lead at the top of the table, and City’s ragged defence looks incapable of securing then another title. Ferguson was delighted with the result. "Today was special because they hadn't lost at home for two years and both of us are contending at the top of the league," Ferguson told Sky Sports.

The United manager was perplexed when an Ashley Young goal was ruled out for offside. "It was a fantastic game and you couldn't take your eyes off it," he said. "We should have killed the game off but it's a funny game football; instead of being 3-0 it was 2-1 and it got the fans going."

The tempestuous atmosphere contributed to the controversial incidents towards the end of the match. They may yet have repercussions for a City side that is visibly low in morale.

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