FA Cup - City beat United to reach FA Cup final
Manchester City claimed a famous 1-0 victory over their 10-man rivals United to clinch their place in the FA Cup final at Wembley with Yaya Toure's strike separating the sides.
Toure pounced in the 52nd minutes to dispossess the sluggish Michael Carrick before slotting a composed finish under Edwin van der Sar, and a straight red card to the reckless Paul Scholes effectively extinguished United's challenge.
The ever hot-headed Mario Balotelli was involved in a scuffle at the final whistle as City celebrated jubilantly, but the aftermath will not bother the Blues one bit after they held on to claim the scalp of their rivals and set up a final clash with either Stoke City or Bolton Wanderers back at Wembley on May 14.
Sir Alex Ferguson dropped Javier Hernandez for the clash as Dimitar Berbatov was handed a starting berth in attack, while City boss Roberto Mancini picked Balotelli in preference to Edin Dzeko to spearhead his side's attack in the absence of captain Carlos Tevez as both sides opted for five-strong midfields.
A quite deafening roar greeted both sets of players as they emerged from the Wembley tunnel, and there was no let up in the vociferous atmosphere as the match got underway.
The pace of the game was predictably frantic as the play lurched from one end to the other incessantly before Berbatov and United squandered two gilt-edge chances as the game came alive in the 15th minute.
First, Joe Hart made a stunning reflex save at the feet of Berbatov following slick interplay from Carrick and Park Ji-Sung to thwart the 22-goal Bulgarian who dallied slightly after latching on to Nani's delivery in the six-yard box.
Just seconds later, the forward scooped a close-range shot over the bar from five yards out with the goal gaping at his mercy following Nani's cut back from the left byline, and the entire United bench was aghast at the miss.
The Reds had another decent chance to stamp their authority on the match in the 25th minute as Nemanja Vidic rose beyond Toure to meet Nani's corner from the right with a powerful header, only to direct it wide of the far post.
City's began to settle just after the half hour mark, and Gareth Barry swivelled sharply and fired a fierce shot into the side netting which had Van der Sar diving at full stretch and the City fans at the far end of the ground celebrating a goal in the 32nd minute.
Balotelli was relatively subdued until the 34th minute when the explosive Italian unleashed a scorching effort from range which forced Van der Sar into another sharp save, while seconds later, Joleon Lescott scuffed his shot wide as the resulting corner broke loose to the defender at the back post.
Neither manager deemed it necessary to make any changes at the break as Hernandez continued to be confined to the substitutes' bench, and it was City who created the first chance of the second half within three minutes.
Aleksandar Kolarov tore down the left, outstripping John O'Shea in the process, before cutting the ball back with Balotelli lurking ominously in the six-yard box and Rio Ferdinand intervened crucially at the front post.
But City's incessant pressure after the break yielded its rewards in the 52nd minute as Carrick was caught in possession on the edge of the United box, and Toure capitalised clinically to power into the penalty area and slide a precise finish under the diving Van der Sar. It was a huge mistake from the England midfielder, while the United keeper was not entirely exempt from blame either after his initial scuffed clearance preceded the midfielder's blunder.
Lescott came inches away from doubling his side's lead just after the hour mark as he rose high to meet David Silva's cross from the left, but glanced his header agonisingly wide of the far post with Van der Sar leaden-footed.
Hernandez came on to replace the ineffectual Antonio Valencia in the 65th minute, and his entrance was accompanied by a huge roar from the expectant United fans.
Nani then hit the bar seconds later as the Portuguese curled an exquisite free kick over the City wall with Hart again distinguishing himself, tipping the ball against the crossbar with the ball dropping to safety.
But United were promptly reduced to 10 men in the 72nd minute as the enormity of their challenge was further heightened: Scholes raked the right thigh of Zabaleta with a high, crude challenge which earned him a straight red card from referee Mike Dean.
Both managers made a flurry of late changes in a fragmented and chaotic finale, but City successfully protected their slender advantage to defend defiantly and ensure that Ferguson's 10th FA Cup semi-final ended in misery for the Scot and their Manchester rivals.
The winner of Stoke City and Bolton Wanderers' semi-final on Sunday will await for Mancini's City, while United's trophy assault is confined to two fronts.