Teenage sensation Marcus Rashford struck again as Manchester United won 1-0 at Manchester City on Sunday to rekindle their top-four challenge and fatally compromise their derby rivals’ Premier League title hopes.
Buoyed by their historic Champions League success against Dynamo, City had attacked the game with purpose and twice went close to taking the lead through Jesus Navas in the early stages.
Fernandinho also headed over the bar from a Navas corner, but United’s pace on the break gave them a ready outlet and in the 16th minute they struck.
Juan Mata fed Rashford on the edge of the box and the youngster planted Demichelis on his backside before tucking a shot past Hart to claim his own piece of derby history.
Shorn of captain Kompany and Otamendi, City were always likely to be vulnerable in central defence and Hart was called into action moments later to beat away a shot from Anthony Martial.
An apparent groin injury to Sterling gave Pellegrini an opportunity to bolster his midfield, with Fernando entering in place of the England international and Yaya Toure moving forward.
It put Toure in a better position to inflict damage and he twice went close to equalising, curling narrowly wide with his left foot and then stabbing off-target after Bacary Sagna flicked on a Navas free-kick.
But Rashford had not finished his torment of Demichelis and in first-half stoppage time he went down in the box after the Argentine stepped across his path, only for referee Michael Oliver to dismiss his penalty appeal.
There was more to come for Demichelis after the break as an under-hit back-pass almost let Martial in, obliging Hart to make a rushed clearance.
In doing so, the England goalkeeper damaged his calf and had to be stretchered off, with League Cup final penalty shootout hero Willy Caballero taking his place.
Demichelis’s nightmare was brought to an end shortly after when he was hooked in favour of Wilfried Bony, which saw Fernandinho drop into central defence.
City looked there for the taking and United poured forward in search of the reassurance a second goal would bring, Caballero parrying a deflected effort from Martial and Fernandinho blocking fortuitously from Rashford.
But the hosts survived to go in search of an equaliser, with Sergio Aguero lashing a shot wide and heading against the post from Toure’s cross.
Still City came forward, but Toure was unable to pick out Bony after Aguero looped a header across goal and both Navas and Fernandinho sent efforts into the stand behind De Gea’s goal.
Six minutes of injury brought one last sight of goal for Aguero, but after chesting down Silva’s pass, he slammed wide.
Substitute Sadio Mane scored twice as Southampton came from two goals behind to beat Liverpool at St Mary’s and increase their chances of qualifying for Europe.
Going into the game tied on points in the table, Liverpool outclassed their hosts in the first half and were deservedly two goals to the good at the break, having been lucky to escape conceding an early penalty.
Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge scored within five minutes of one another as Liverpool dominated the first half but Mane, available after seeing his red card against Stoke rescinded, hit a brace either side of a fine Graziano Pelle strike to seal a memorable 3-2 win for Ronald Koeman’s side.
Mane could have had an instant impact but missed a 49th-minute penalty, only to then become the hero of the piece as Jurgen Klopp saw Liverpool lose for the first time in nine.
Southampton had started well and had strong calls for a penalty turned down by referee Roger East as Shane Long turned former Saints defender Dejan Lovren before bursting into the box and went down in the box as the Croatian looked to close him down.
Pelle then fired over from Steven Davis’ pass before Liverpool started to create chances, Sturridge stinging the palms of Fraser Forster before accidentally blocking Divock Origi’s strike.
But no-one could get in the way of Coutinho’s opening goal just seconds later as the Brazil international curled a shot past Forster from 25 yards with 17 minutes on the clock.
They were soon two ahead as a lightening counter-attack left Origi and Sturridge against two Saints’ defenders – and it was the latter who tucked away Liverpool’s second having been picked out by Origi.
Joe Allen should have added to Koeman’s woes as he burst into the box but his shot was too close to Forster, who kept the effort out with his foot.
Southampton could not get themselves together at the back and, after Jordy Clasie surrendered possession, they were lucky Liverpool wasted a three-on-two counter-attack which ended with Sturridge shooting tamely at Forster.
Coutinho drifted in a corner just after the half-hour mark and, as it dropped to Allen, the Wales international finished into the corner but his celebrations were short-lived as Mamadou Sakho was deemed to be interfering with play while stood in an offside position.
Koeman reacted at the interval, making a double change as Mane and Victor Wanyama replaced Dusan Tadic and Clasie – while Martin Skrtel came on in place of Lovren for the visitors.
Two of those substitutes were involved immediately, Skrtel conceding a penalty as he tugged down Pelle, with Mane stepping up only to see his tame spot-kick pushed out my Simon Mignolet.
Mane and Oriol Romeu both came close before the former made up for his earlier penalty miss by turning Sakho in the box and firing home.
And, with the pressure continuing to build on Liverpool’s back-four, Pelle thrashed home his third goal in two games (83) to bring the game level before setting Mane away to convert the 86th-minute winner as Saints go seventh.
The pressure is cranking up on Louis van Gaal as a difficult campaign edges towards completion, with the Dutchman’s side lagging four points behind in the race for a top-four finish.
The under-fire United boss accepts their Champions League hopes could all but be extinguished if they lose today’s do-or-die derby at fourth-placed Manchester City.
Thursday’s Europa League exit to Liverpool means the Premier League is their only remaining route to the continent’s top table – a finish Fellaini believes is the bare minimum.
“We have to do it because a team like Man United have to be in the Champions League next season,” he told the BBC. “We will fight to the end to be there.
“The derby is a great sensation, (a great) atmosphere.
“All the city will watch the game – the challenge, goals, everything – because it will be a big game, so everyone likes to watch a game like that.”
United supporters will not hold back if their side falter at the Etihad Stadium, if this campaign is anything to go by.
Van Gaal is not the only target of their ire as for some Fellaini is symbolic of the club’s decline in recent years, with his substitution in last weekend’s FA Cup quarter-final against West Ham cheered by pockets of supporters at Old Trafford.
“I think the players are used to it,” he said of the criticism. “I don’t read, I don’t listen. I am just focusing on my job. Okay, sometimes it is hard for my family, but the rest I don’t look at it.”