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HOWEVER cosmopolitan the Manchester derby becomes, local lad Phil Foden is making this fixture his own.

Foden, who scored a hat-trick against Manchester United here last season, netted a second-half double to propel Pep Guardiola’s side to a comeback victory.

The England man’s goals – cancelling out an early rocket from fellow Mancunian Marcus Rashford – keeps champions City just a point behind leaders Liverpool ahead of next Sunday’s summit meeting at Anfield.

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Erling Haaland, who had missed an extraordinary first-half sitter, then sealed the deal in injury time.

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It was the first time United had lost a Premier League match after leading at half-time for almost ten years – as Erik ten Hag’s side suffered back-to-back league defeats to further dent their vague hopes of Champions League qualification.

But City had been seriously rattled during the first half, after Rashford had hammered United into an eighth-minute lead and Ten Hag’s attempt at rope-a-dope tactics threatened to bear fruit.

Before kick-off it barely felt like a derby. City had won five of the previous six of these contests and the Etihad, pre-match, is like some weird football theme park, with hundreds of corporate punters clogging the playing surface for photos.

But the feeling of ho-hum inevitability was obliterated within eight minutes by Rashford.

Onana punted long, Bruno Fernandes held off Ruben Dias and laid it back for the England forward, who walloped home a first-time shot from 25 yards – clipping the underside of the crossbar for added eye-candy.

It was right in front of the United fans but it took a second or so for them to believe their eyes before they descended into an orgy of limbs.

Ten Hag had set up United without an authentic centre-forward, Bruno Fernandes and Scott McTominay as a pair of false nines, although it was more fluid than that.

The visitors sat back, packed their defence and challenged City to break them down.

Man Utd star Diogo Dalot builds the ‘worst footballer in history’ with the left foot of Antony.

For 45 minutes, Guardiola’s side seemed to forget who they were.

They were in too much of a hurry, there was panic where there ought to have been patience as the champions snatched at shots and winger Jeremy Doku looked even less of a Manchester City player than he normally does,

Kobbie Mainoo won a thudding tackle to dispossess Kevin De Bruyne, Onana twice denied Foden – with his legs at his near post, then advancing off his line to smother.

Rashford had two more sighters, but stumbled both times.

Most of the time, though, United stood in two banks of four and wore bruises with masochistic joy as City peppered them with leather.

Haaland headed miles over from close range, then Rodri had a vicious volley pushed wide by Onana, enjoying his best 45 minutes in a United shirt.

And then, shortly before half-time, came a moment every bit as improbable as Rashford’s opener as Rodri centred to the far post, Foden cushioned a header back across goal and Haaland volleyed over from two yards out.

The Norwegian is hardly out of touch. He had netted five goals in Tuesday’s FA Cup tie at Luton. He ought to have headed it.

City got back into the game in the 56th minute.

But this was a derby – where form and class and logic are so often irrelevant.

Rodri hammered the turf in frustration, Guardiola rubbed his head manically and Haaland merely stared into space.

Whatever his demeanour on the touchline, Guardiola must have told his players to give their heads a wobble and calm down, because they were soon looking more like their old selves.

The equaliser arrived on 56 minutes but not without controversy.

United had launched a counter-attack, McTominay sending Rashord through only for the forward to fall under minimal contact from Kyle Walker.

Ref Andy Madley was having none of it and a minute later, City were level when Rodri squared a pass to Foden who nipped past Victor Lindelof and arrowed a powerful shot into the corner of the net from the edge of the area.

Ten Hag appeared to hurl his chewing gum into the turf as he exploded at fourth official Darren England and Madley showed the United manager a yellow card.

It was Foden’s 17th goal of the season – his best scoring campaign – and the second goal of the afternoon to be scored by an actual Mancunian.

Rashford, who had been poor since his goal, was withdrawn in favour of the hapless Antony.

The winger was soon sent clear only to be denied by Ederson hurtling out of goal to win a brilliant tackle on the edge of his area.

But Foden had been running the show and ten minutes from time, he delivered the winner, driving forward, exchanging passes with Julian Alvarez – on for the dismal Doku – and angling a shot past Onana into the far corner.

Then Rodri robbed sub Sofyan Amrabat and fed Haaland, who rolled his shot past Onana, to redeem himself for that earlier howler and leave the blue half of Manchester in familiar crowing voice.

 

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