Oliver Kay, The Times: There are neighbours, there are noisy neighbours and, if you are really unlucky, like Manchester City, you might be lumbered with the kind of neighbours who become utterly preoccupied with scuppering your planning application. Manchester City’s designs on parading a trophy around this divided city for the first time since 1976, not to mention their much-publicised desire for world domination, are back on the drawing board after Wayne Rooney’s late, late goal settled another extraordinary derby last night. And, for that, they can blame United’s unyielding desire to put the long-suffering neighbours back in their place.
At the end the DJ tried to make himself heard above the din by announcing that United will play Aston Villa in the final at Wembley on February 28. It was perfectly true, but, for once, beating the neighbours, suppressing the blue revolt and denying them a day out at Wembley — which means their success-starved supporters but above all Tévez, once of this parish, and Garry Cook, the chief executive, who has come to personify the fiercely ambitious new regime at City — had become an end in itself.
On balance, United deserved it. They had been in control for long periods of the first leg last week, when two goals from Tévez gave Roberto Mancini’s side a 2-1 win, but last night, after an uncertain first half, they turned the screw.
Once again, Old Trafford turned up the volume to drown out the noisy neighbours. And that famous ticker at the Stretford End prepared to move on to its 34th year. When the anniversary of City’s last trophy win comes on February 28, it will be United at Wembley but this, in many ways, felt like their cup final.
Martin Samuel, The Daily Mail: Football, it would seem, is a simple game: 22 players kick a ball around for 90 minutes, after which Manchester United stick it right up Manchester City. There were 92 minutes on the clock this time, not 96, not that it mattered. The blow would have been no less sick-making for those in the blue corner. Once again, they thought they had done enough; once again a side marshalled by Sir Alex Ferguson demonstrated that they set the parameters of enough; and City are not even in sight yet.
At the final whistle, Carlos Tevez was dazed, twisting in the middle. His team-mates were heading for the tunnel, crushed, the celebrating reds were oblivious to him. He stumbled around, aimlessly, looking for a friendly face, a hand to shake. It seemed a painful age until his old colleagues spotted him and offered the standard commiserations. Tevez scored three times in this tie, but it was not sufficient. He may not regret leaving United but he will know the calibre of the team he has left behind.
Henry Winter, The Telegraph: What drama. What a game. What a half. The Carling Cup final itself will struggle to rival the visceral intensity, technical excellence and astonishing speed of this spell-binding classic of a semi-final. These games are supposed to be notable only for the result. Not last night. Not on Wayne Rooney’s watch.
For Manchester United, this was as memorable as it was magical. At some point, the pulses of United fans will return to normal. At some point, United supporters will regain their breath. For this was United at their very best, showing verve and determination to resist the blue wave that has threatened to sweep across the city.
Shaun Custis, The Sun: For Carlos Tevez, the former United favourite who has become the anti-Christ since switching to the blue half of the City, it was a bitter pill to swallow. Tevez scored twice in the explosive first leg at Eastlands to give City a 2-1 lead and it was his goal which pulled City back into this game after United had gone 2-0 up through Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick. But it was not to be his night or that of ‘Silly Billy’ chief executive Garry Cook who said City would become the world’s biggest club and predicted another victory over United. Old Trafford boss Fergie reckoned City were getting a little carried away with themselves and how right he was.