City complete double over United at Old Trafford

ONCE IN A BLUE MOON: Sven's men scored twice in the first half and proved too strong for United, completing their first league double over their neighbors for 38 years

AFP , MANCHESTER, ENGLAND

Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 20

Manchester United's Michael Carrick insisted the race for the Premier League was still on after his side's shock 2-1 loss to Manchester City at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Goals from Darius Vassell and Zimbabwe international Benjani Mwaruwari put City 2-0 ahead at halftime and left the champions with too much to do in the second half as Sven-Goran Eriksson guided City to their first league win at their local rivals' home ground since 1974.

Defeat left United two points adrift of league leaders Arsenal, who could extend their advantage to five points if they beat Blackburn Rovers.

But England midfielder Carrick, who scored United's consolation goal deep into injury time, insisted Sir Alex Ferguson's team remain in the hunt to retain their title.

"There are still a few games to go and I don't think Arsenal will go the rest of the season winning every game," Carrick said. "I'd be surprised if they do that. There will be a few more ups and downs to come and hopefully we can have more ups than downs."

This was United's first home match since Wednesday's 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster which took the lives of eight of their players and killed 23 people in all.

Before kick off both Ferguson and Eriksson laid wreaths in memory of those who died when an airplane carrying United home from a European Cup tie crashed on take-off.

Then came the minute's silence, the subject of much debate in recent weeks amidst fears of City supporters disrupting the tribute.

However, it was impeccably observed by all fans inside the ground.

"It was nice to see that the minute's silence for the Munich disaster went down really well," Carrick said. "Everyone was quiet, but in terms of the game, we have not gone home very happy."

United manager Ferguson was not around to discuss his team's performance having left Old Trafford immediately after the final whistle in order to catch a flight to South Africa for a press conference in Cape Town tomorrow to announce United's pre-season tour of the country.

But his assistant, Carlos Queiroz, blamed fatigue caused by the midweek international break for United's failure to avoid defeat.

"It was a very disappointing result for us. The lads tried their best to win, but it wasn't our day," he said. "We started with anxiety and we tried to win the game too early against a team who are always very well organized and threatening to surprise you on the counterattack. We had the wrong approach."

"But we had seven or eight players away who played 90 minutes for their national teams in midweek and that is always a problem. It is a not an excuse, but the team was affected by it," he said.

City's victory reignited their bid to claim a Champions League spot this season and manager Eriksson believes that Benjani, a ?3.7 million (US$7.2 million) buy from Portsmouth, could prove key.

"We have technique and pace, but with Benjani in our team we are even better because he has technique and pace in abundance," Eriksson said. "He will be extremely important for us because he is the perfect player for how we play football. With him and Martin Petrov, we were able to play some wonderful football and make some terrific counter-attacks."

Also See: Weary, winless Chelsea look to Africa