The Header That Defined A Season

On Wednesday night, Manchester City and Manchester United will face off in another titanic Manchester derby. As ever, the result will inevitably define the course of the Premier League title race, with with City fans knowing that only a win at Old Trafford will keep them in front of title aggressors Liverpool.

Yet seven years ago, in April of 2012, the stakes were even higher. In a derby under the Etihad lights, the blue and red sides of Manchester locked horns to see who would stake a claim to be the champions of England.

On that night, one man leapt above all others.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 30: Vincent Kompany of Manchester City celebrates scoring the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on April 30, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Following a 2-0 win against Wolverhampton Wanderers on the afternoon of Sunday 22nd April 2012, all eyes turned towards the Manchester derby at the Etihad a week later. This was not just because it was a game against hated rivals, but Manchester City were back in the title race after a 4-4 draw against Everton earlier that afternoon.

The build-up had begun in earnest on Sky Sports with some cringy title for the Monday night clash and immense nerves had crept in for City fans. 

The ‘Typical City’ mentality is something that will never be let go by fans regardless of their age, and with the club weeks away from potentially securing their first Premier League title in over 40 years, there was still a feeling that given this opportunity, Roberto Mancini’s team could still throw it away.

All the big guns were back and raring to go, including Carlos Tevez who had redeemed himself following a touchline spat with Mancini earlier that season. However, there was one constant which was keeping City in this title race and that was captain Vincent Kompany.

Manchester City’s Belgian defender Vincent Kompany (R) celebrates with English defender Joleon Lescott (L) after scoring his goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north-west England on October 15, 2011. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

The Belgian’s relationship with fellow centre back Joleon Lescott had made them the best defensive partnership that season and it would only be right for Kompany to be a part of an iconic moment in City’s title winning campaign.

I can remember every minute of that derby match on 30th April. Arriving three hours before kick-off in the evening sun, meeting up with friends and then entering the stadium waiting nervously for this ordeal to get underway.

The atmosphere was like something I had never experienced in that stadium for a long time and then came a corner towards the end of the first half. 

Captain Kompany swaggered into the box ready to go through the routine, David Silva crosses the ball in, Kompany leaps above Chris Smalling and fires the ball into the back of David De Gea’s net. Blue shirts went into a frenzy.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 30: Vincent Kompany of Manchester City scores the opening goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium on April 30, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Then came an unbearable second half always with the fear that Manchester United will do the ‘United’ thing and grab a last-minute equaliser or even winner, but Roberto Mancini’s team held out, won 1-0 giving them the upper hand in the Premier League title race. 

The Aguero goal against Queens Park Rangers will always be the standout moment from that 2011/12 title winning campaign. However, no City fan can underestimate how vital that Kompany goal was in that derby match and with another title-deciding match against United on the way, it may be down to the captain to produce another defining moment.

Wednesday’s trip to Old Trafford will make or break City’s season domestically. Win and they have the upper hand against Liverpool going into the final three weeks of the season. Lose and the ribbons on that Premier League trophy will turn from sky blue to red.

Big games always call for big moments from big players and with Kompany back at the heart of Guardiola’s defence, maybe it’s time for the Belgian to define City’s season once again. 

You can follow the author on Twitter here: @AstburyMatt

You can follow us on Twitter for more Manchester City content: @City_Xtra

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