Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Who's the Man? This time, Manchester City

MANCHESTER, England — With one thumping header, Vincent Kompany might have tilted the balance of soccer power in Manchester from red to blue.

The captain's goal in first-half stoppage time was enough to give Manchester City a 1-0 win over Manchester United on Monday in a mega-hyped rivalry game, putting his team in position to be champions of England for the first time in 44 years.

"I guess a lot of predictions go wrong, but I remember someone texting me today and saying 'You're going to score a goal today,' and I thought he was a lunatic," said Kompany, a Belgian defender who entered with just two goals this season.

It was a simple goal after a brief lapse from the United defense, but it could have long-lasting repercussions in Manchester — and English soccer. Especially for United, the world's richest sports franchise and owned by the same Glazer family that owns the Buccaneers.

City tied its much more storied crosstown rival for first place at 83 points with two of 38 matches left. But the blue-clad "Citizens" own the tiebreaker with a goal differential of plus-61 to plus-53 for United.

This was called the biggest Premier League game ever — one ESPN promoted to American audiences with commercials during the NFL draft, the NBA playoffs, SportsCenter and more.

It has been so long since Man City won a title that it was called First Division back then — the Premier League was more than 20 years away. And in the 1990s Man City, in major financial trouble, was relegated — then relegated again, playing in the third flight against the likes of Luton Town, Wrexham and York City.

Oh, and in that span since 1968, Man U has won 12 of its record 19 league titles, eight FA Cups, two European Champions League trophies and more.

Fast forward to now in the 131-year history of meetings between the two sides. City is owned by free-spending Sheik Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, brother of Abu Dhabi's crown prince. It has shelled out millions for top global stars such as David Silva, Carlos Tevez and Yaya Toure as well as Argentine striker Sergio Aguero, whose father-in-law Diego Maradona watched this game from the stands.

Paired with a 6-1 thrashing of Man U in October at its stadium, Old Trafford, Man City solidly owns town bragging rights.

Its goal now is more than that.

"We've been waiting for this moment," Kompany said. "It's far from over, and we know that, but just to give our fans two wins over Manchester United this season — we have to finish it off."

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