MANCHESTER, England - Manchester City thrashed rival Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday to hand Sir Alex Ferguson his most lopsided defeat in 25 years in charge.
"I'm shattered, I can't believe it," a shocked Ferguson said after his side's 37-match home unbeaten run come to a crashing halt.
Mario Balotelli scored twice for City and Sergio Aguero added a third. Two late goals from Edin Dzeko and another from David Silva earned the winners their most lopsided decision at Old Trafford since winning 5-0 in 1955 — the last time United lost by five in the topflight.
Jonny Evans, the United central defender who was at fault for Balotelli's opening goal, received a straight red card in the 46th minute for a foul on the Italian forward.
Darren Fletcher had given United a glimmer of hope when he scored in the 81st minute to make it 3-1. But with United piling forward in search of an unlikely point, City took full advantage with three goals in the last four minutes.
"It was an incredible disappointment," Ferguson said. "You have to recover.
"The history of Manchester United is 'another day' and we will recover. That kind of defeat will make an impact on the players. There's a lot of embarrassment in that dressing room and quite rightly so."
City, which won the last of its two topflight titles in 1968, leads the 19-time champions by five points after nine games. But manager Roberto Mancini played down the importance of the win.
"This is only one game," the Italian said. "I still think United are one yard above us, still.
"I think we can only change this after we win the title in the end. After, maybe it will be different, but now United are better than us."
For the first hour, Balotelli took centre stage, not least because of the latest bizarre off-field incident in which he had been embroiled over the weekend.
Early Saturday morning, two fire engines were sent to the 21-year-old Italy international's home to quell a fire caused by a firework in his bathroom.
"If we want to talk about Mario regarding a football player, I put him in the first five players in the world," said Mancini, who said he didn't know what happened at Balotelli's house, only that "he sleep in a hotel now."
Balotelli was selected ahead of Dzeko and rewarded that decision in the 21st minute when Silva's pass allowed James Milner to pull the ball back for Balotelli to convert an exquisite first-time right-foot finish from the edge of the penalty area.
Not content with the goal, Balotelli raised his jersey to display a T-shirt bearing the slogan "Why always me" which earned him a booking from referee Mark Clattenburg.
It hardly affected him, or City, and United's fate was sealed a minute into the second half when Evans pulled back the Italian on the edge of the area and was dismissed.
It took City until the hour mark to make United pay when Silva and Milner combined once more, the latter crossing for Balotelli to convert easily at the far post.
Chances continued to fall for City and Aguero was the next player on the scoresheet after 68 minutes as Milner's pass sent defender Micah Richards to the byline and he crossed into the six-metre area for the Argentine striker to convert from close range.
Balotelli was taken off, for fear that he might collect another yellow card, and replacement Dzeko might have scored before Fletcher exchanged passes with Javier Hernandez and curled in his team's consolation goal from 20 metres after 81 minutes.
However, City would not be denied and scored three times in as many minutes over the closing stages.
In the last minute of normal time, Gareth Barry flicked on a corner and Joleon Lescott pulled the ball back across goal and into the United goal via Dzeko's knee.
A minute later, Dzeko's pass freed Silva to advance half the length of the field and beat the exposed David de Gea. Then, in the final of the three minutes of stoppage time, the same pair combined, Silva this time passing to Dzeko who had time and space to advance before completing the victory with a strong finish past De Gea.
"The sending off was the killer blow," Ferguson said. "After that we kept attacking ... When we went to 3-1, 4-1 we should have settled for that."