Rocket man Mario Balotelli inspired Manchester City to their biggest victory at Manchester United since 1926 as Roberto Mancini’s team thrashed their neighbours at Old Trafford.
Balotelli, rescued from his Cheshire mansion on Saturday morning after setting off fireworks in his bathroom, scored the first two goals and created the third for Sergio Aguero as ten-man United crashed to an incredible defeat.
Two late strikes from Edin Dzeko and a David Silva goal completed City’s rout, with Darren Fletcher scoring a consolation for the home side.
But City left the field having inflicted a hammering on their neighbours which is their biggest win at United since a 6-1 First Division victory at Old Trafford in Jan 1926.
United went into the game having won each of their last 19 Premier League games at Old Trafford, a run stretching back to a 2-2 draw against West Bromwich last October.
And despite some surprising selections, including Phil Jones and Javier Hernandez before overlooked in favour of Jonny Evans and Danny Welbeck respectively, United started brightly, dominating possession in the opening 20 minutes.
United could not translate their dominance into attempts on goal, however, and City keeper Joe Hart had nothing to do before Balotelli opened the scoring for the visitors on 22 miniutes.
Moments earlier, the Italian had been involved in a minor row with Roberto Mancini, who had urged the 20-year-old to do more defensive work for his team.
Balotelli has never been one to waste his time tracking back, though – his qualities are in front of goal and he gave another example of his nerveless finishing by claiming his fifth goal in five games with a cool finish from James Milner’s pull-back.
David Silva had released Milner before the England midfielder teed up Balotelli to side-foot the ball into the net from 18 yards.
And then came the T-shirt. 36 hours after escaping a fire at his house started by fireworks being released from his bathroom, Balotelli pulled up his shirt to reveal a message on his vest which read, ‘Why Always Me?’
Well, Mario, it is probably because you always seem to do things nobody else would dream of, but that might be wrong. Who knows?
Balotelli was booked for his celebration by referee Mark Clattenburg, but it might just have been worth it for the comedy value.
United now had a problem and they rarely looked like solving it during the remainder of the first-half.
Barring a couple of routine strikes from distance by Anderson and Wayne Rooney, Hart had nothing to concern himself with.
A bad day got immeasurably worse for United two minutes into the second-half, however, when Evans was sent off for fouling Balotelli on the edge of the penalty area.
Although contact appeared slight, there was no doubt that Evans checked Balotelli’s run and, as the last defender, left Clattenburg with no option but to show the red card.
Bizarrely, United raised their game after the red card and looked likely to push City all the way.
But the roof caved in on the home side when Balotelli scored his second to make the game safe on the hour when he tapped in James Milner’s cross from three yards.
Balotelli then turned creator nine minutes later by crossing for Aguero to score from similar range.
When Fletcher hauled one back for United on 80 minutes with a 25 yard strike, a dramatic fightback appeared just slightly possible.
But City destroyed those hopes with three goals in the final three minutes through Dzeko, Silva and Dzeko deep in injury time.
An incredible result and one which, prior to Chelsea’s game at QPR, moved City five points clear at the top of the table.