Rooney delighted with strike
Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney is convinced the best goal of his career has ended any lingering hopes Manchester City had of winning the title this season.
Even City boss Roberto Mancini admitted all you can do, faced with such genius, is applaud after Rooney's jaw-dropping overhead kick 13 minutes from time settled a pulsating Manchester derby.
City were marginally the better side, but that counts for nothing now they are eight points adrift of their neighbours, having played a game more.
Rooney will get all the plaudits and the England forward said: "That is my best goal. It was such an important game and to score the winning goal in that way was a great feeling - indescribable.
"I have seen it again. I was just trying to keep my eye on the ball and to get a good connection. Luckily it went into the top corner.
"It is a significant result and almost certainly rules City out of the title race unless a disaster happens."
As United boss Sir Alex Ferguson reflected, Rooney's heroics mean it is virtually certain there will be no discussion of a clinical opener from Nani, nor the performance of Chris Smalling, who subdued Carlos Tevez to such an extent he did not have a shot.
Not that it mattered in the end.
"When a fantastic player like Rooney scores a goal like this, you can only clap," City boss Mancini said. "I am very sorry for my players. They really didn't deserve to lose this game."
There is almost a sense of deja vu about City's fortunes against United under Mancini. When the Italian took over as Inter Milan boss he struggled to guide his team to victory over AC Milan.
Now he is experiencing the same emotions, having lost three times in five meetings since his arrival at Eastlands, the only success turning into a defeat in last season's Carling Cup semi-final.
"It is like my first two years in Milan," Mancini said. "Every time we didn't deserve to lose, every time we did. For the same thing to happen again is incredible, but Manchester United have such a strong mentality. Even when they don't deserve to win the game, sometimes they do."
Mancini must now try and inject the same feeling into his own team, and in the short term raise their spirits ahead of a tricky Europa League trip to take on Greek outfit Aris on Tuesday, then an FA Cup fourth-round replay against Notts County at Eastlands next Sunday.
Opposite number Ferguson now has a week to prepare for an FA Cup fifth-round meeting with non-league Crawley next Saturday ahead of United's re-entrance into the Champions League against Marseille.
"Nani scored a fantastic goal but nobody in their right mind will talk about it because the winner was unbelievable," Ferguson said. "Wayne hit a volley against Newcastle some years ago and it was the same ferocity. We have had some fantastic goals here but in terms of execution, you will never see that."
The result was a vindication of Ferguson's decision to leave leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov on the bench.
It was also the perfect way to bounce back from that shock defeat at Wolves last weekend.
United have still only recorded three victories away from home this season, contrasting sharply with their form at Old Trafford, where they have only dropped two points.
As seven of the Red Devils' final 12 games are away, including trips to Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, Ferguson understands there is an urgent need to rectify United's results on the road.
"I had to sit Dimitar down and tell him he was not starting," Ferguson said. "I did not enjoy that. It was a difficult decision but we had to pay attention to the number of players they put in midfield, plus Silva floating.
"What I need to get out of Wayne and Berbatov is performances away from home. They have not been as good as they have been at home. With the ability those two have, they really should be dictating games for us.
"When they do, it will make a hell of a difference to Manchester United."