Rooney: I owed United faithful
Wayne Rooney provided the most astounding finale to a Manchester derby – then told United’s ecstatic fans: "I owe you that."
There is no superlative that can do justice to the manner with which Rooney spun round, manipulated his body four feet into the air, then connected with Nani’s cross with such power Joe Hart never had chance to move before it flashed into the top corner of his goal.
It will be replayed many years from now and the goal of the season prize might as well be parcelled up and sent to Old Trafford right now.
However, given Rooney’s tepid form since he suffered the first of a succession of ankle injuries in Munich last March, the 25-year-old accepts there was an element of payback as well.
"The Manchester United fans deserve that from me," he said.
"I haven’t had the best of seasons and I know how big this game is in Manchester, so I hope they enjoyed that.
"Now the aim is to keep scoring and help us get that title back."
In that regard, Rooney was somewhat more forceful than Sir Alex Ferguson.
Unlike his manager, who has spent the last few months emphasising just how crazy this season has been and is presumably far too experienced to take anything for granted, Rooney was prepared to look at United’s imposing eight-point lead over their neighbours, check they also have a game in hand in a season which, for them, has 12 hurdles left, and discount them from the battle.
"It almost certainly rules City out of the title race unless a disaster happens," he said.
"We are the team to catch. We know how it feels to be top of the league and to get over that finish line.
"We have the experience with the manager and the players and we know what we have to do.
"Hopefully within the next six or seven games, we can maintain that gap, or make it bigger."
For City, it is agony.
Evidently, the gap to United, which for so many years was a yawning chasm, has closed dramatically.
But they just cannot take that final step to bridge it completely.
Knocked out of the Carling Cup semi-final last season, when they were also beaten by two injury-time goals in the league.
They have now collected just a single point from two meetings this season when the difference between the sides has been wafer thin, if it has existed at all.
Little wonder Blues legend Mike Summerbee grew increasingly indignant in his role as a Sky Sports pundit as the post-match analysis concentrated on where United had gained the crucial edge.
"There were two teams out there?" he grumbled. "Show our chances.
"Manchester United have spent fortunes, don’t worry about that. They gave us a game. We have created more chances than them.
"One day Manchester City will come here and take them."
There was a mixture of bitterness and resignation in Summerbee’s voice, born of spending so long in the Red Devils shadow, a place, for this season at least, they are destined to remain.
"I don’t think they were that unlucky," continued Rooney.
"They played OK. They moved the ball well at times. But they didn’t hurt us. They didn’t penetrate us.
"Other than the Silva chance in the first half, they didn’t really have a clear chance. We had two or three.
"Based on that, we deserved to win."
Had David Silva converted the third minute chance given to him by Carlos Tevez, the outcome may well have been different.
The Blues looked more likely to claim victory once Edin Dzeko’s effort had bounced in off Silva’s back to level Nani’s first-half opener.
Rooney had other ideas, with a goal even Ferguson struggled to describe.
"All the talk will be about the winner, and quite rightly so, because I have never seen a goal like that in my life," he said. "It was absolutely magnificent."
Even Roberto Mancini had to agree with that.
"When a fantastic player like Rooney scores a goal like that, you can only clap," said the Italian.