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Manchester derby memories: Van Persie seals dramatic win at the Etihad

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Every day this week we’ll be re-living a derby day memory ahead of Manchester City’s visit to Old Trafford on Saturday. Today: Robin van Persie ignites Manchester United’s title challenge with a stoppage-time winner in December 2012.

Manchester City v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

In what was then a reversal of the long-established dynamic, Manchetser City hosted cross-town rivals Manchester United as the reigning Premier League champions on 9 December 2012, but it was the Red Devils who sat top of the table ahead of the fixture.

Wayne Rooney gave United a healthy two-goal cushion going into the break, as he registered the ninth and 10th Manchester derby goals of his career.

But early in the second half, City manager Roberto Mancini withrew the misfiring Mario Balotelli in favour of former United striker Carlos Tevez, in what proved to be a game changing switch.

Tevez’s quality and industry wreaked havoc in the United defence, and the home side were in the ascendancy.

Argentine full-back Pablo Zabaleta pulled a goal back for the Citizens just after the hour mark, and, shortly after David Silva had struck the bar, midfield powerhouse Yaya Toure drew City level in the 86th minute.

By this point, United were holding on for dear life, as, if any side seemed likely to find a winner, it was going to be City.

But United refused to merely hang on and settle for a point.

In the 92nd minute, Rafael da Silva was fouled by Carlos Tevez, giving the away side a free-kick 25 yards from goal, right of centre.

It was a difficult angle for a shot, and a fair distance from goal, but Robin van Persie — signed that summer from Arsenal for £24 million, and whom Mancini admitted to pursuing during the same transfer window — was in the form of his life, and brimming with confidence.

The Dutchman’s strike took a deflection off Samir Nasri’s outstretched leg and looped beyond Joe Hart, into the corner of the net.

Van Persie’s late winner — his 14th goal of the season — sent United six points clear at the top of the table, ended City’s run of almost a year without defeat on home soil, and sparked frenzied celebrations on the Etihad pitch from the United contingent.

United would of course go on to lift their 20th English top division title that season, in what would be Sir Alex Ferguson’s final campaign as Old Trafford boss.