The best win by a British team on European soil — and surely a game that will be remembered for years to come — was delivered by Manchester City’s youthful cast of ‘striker-athletes’ when it beat Manchester United’s powerful veterans to advance to the Champions League semifinals on Tuesday.
Video shows Ander Herrera’s stunning 75th-minute bicycle kick to give United a 2-1 lead, after it trailed the entire match. The goal was one of many breathtaking ones in an extraordinary night at Old Trafford. By defying expectations to score from outside the box for the Red Devils, Herrera cemented himself as one of the great goalscorers to come out of Manchester.
Jose Mourinho did not provide definitive answers afterward but denied his players overachieved, saying: “I think the difference was fundamental. Before, we were 2-0, 4-2 down after 20 minutes. After a fantastic performance in the first leg against City, I think the players arrived at Old Trafford in a completely different frame of mind.
“That change was huge. Even though they had the advantage because they scored the goal at the end of the first leg, I think after 15 minutes, we created a lot of opportunities that just did not arrive in the first leg because we thought that we could do it.
“We were more afraid that we could get the first leg and go in ahead. But after 15 minutes we lost that mental balance. The English mentality of going out and putting the dog on the kill would never let them come back into the game.
“We were afraid, we were scared that the second leg would be like the first leg: They would score at the end of the first leg and then we would have to play to go to the Etihad (Stadium) with something to spare. Then the first goal would win the game.
“So today, after 15 minutes, we created so many chances that it was unbelievable to miss three. The third one would have been unbelievable to take.”
It is not often you get the play of a match that not many people ever thought would be possible. Ander Herrera appears to have played one of the greatest goals of his career. #UCL https://t.co/h74DdEuxWR — UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) May 12, 2015
Mourinho in particular admitted he is still adjusting to the ‘nasty’ style that City uses.
“It was a tight game, a scrappy game with a lot of tackles,” Mourinho said. “A lot of fouls. Every single free kick there was a handball, a foul. Every single set piece there was a foul. I have no idea what we’re supposed to do. We don’t know any more how to play football. I have no idea. A feeling of ‘Let’s be lucky.’
“A team like City plays like a team like Barcelona and, in their history, they are like a team like Inter, like a team like Barcelona. They are not Barcelona, not Inter.
“I said at the beginning of the season I was concerned because when City did open up, [Roberto] Mancini had them good in his head, and they play like a typical Barca team, like a typical Inter team, like a typical Bayern team. And this is a pressure moment for them, this is a moment that a manager like Guardiola — imagine they don’t know Guardiola, they don’t know the work he did, they don’t know what he is trying to achieve, how difficult it is. Suddenly, the pressure of what they have to do will kick in. I am curious to see what will happen.”
City has overcome the shock of its Champions League exit last season to reach the semifinals, a process that once seemed inconceivable considering the dominance of Europe’s other top leagues.
Indeed, the presence of newly crowned Premier League champions at the summit would give many analysts pause when rating the expected quality of the match, but it was a confidence boost for City as well as its fans who are often ridiculed for their celebrations in European competition.
Steven Davis scored a fourth-minute own goal to give City the lead, though halftime substitute Sergio Aguero then equalized in the 53rd minute before Herrera’s breathtaking strike: