Mario Balotelli inspired the worst loss of Sir Alex Ferguson's career as Manchester City thrashed ten-man Manchester United 6-1 to go five points clear at the top of the Premier League on Sunday.
Balotelli, who was forced to flee his home on Saturday following a bizarre late night blaze triggered by fireworks, lit the fuse on City's title charge in their biggest win at Old Trafford in 85 years. The 21-year-old Italian scored in the 22nd minute and added a second on the hour mark before Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero netted a third in the 69th minute.
A brace of late goals from Edin Dzeko and a David Silva finish completed City's scoring on a memorable afternoon as United suffered their worst home defeat in Premier League history.
United, who had Jonny Evans sent off two minutes into the second half, scored a memorable late goal through Darren Fletcher but it was scant consolation after a chastening afternoon for Ferguson's men. The defeat was United's first league loss at Old Trafford since April 2010 and left City in pole position at the top of the table.
"It's good but I think it's not so important that we won 6-1 but that we beat a fantastic team - that is important," City manager Roberto Mancini said.
Mancini was also pleased with the contribution of Balotelli, who repaid his faith in him with a two-goal performance. "I'm happy for him because he scored two important goals, because he played well," said Mancini. "I think it's important for our confidence to come here and beat United."
Balotelli celebrated his opening strike by removing his jersey to expose a t-shirt with the slogan: "Why Always Me?" to the delight of his team-mates but irked the referee who promptly booked the forward.
Stunned United coach Ferguson said the defeat was the worst of his 54-year career as a player and manager. "It was our worst ever day," said Ferguson. "It's the worst result in my history, ever. Even as a player I don't think I ever lost 6-1.
"The sending off was a killer for us. We kept attacking when we went 4-1 down and we should have just said: 'We've had our day'. We just kept attacking. They were attacking three versus two. It was crazy football," Ferguson told Sky Sports.
QPR defeat nine-man Chelsea
A good afternoon for City got even better in the late games as Chelsea fell to a 1-0 defeat against Queens Park Rangers in a pulsating west London derby which saw Andre Villas-Boas's side finish with nine men.
Promoted QPR took the lead from the penalty spot on ten minutes, Heidar Helgusson slotting home after being bundled over by David Luiz. And, Chelsea's challenge came further apart soon after when Jose Bosingwa was shown a red card for hauling down Shaun Wright-Phillips.
A disastrous opening 45 minutes got worse for Chelsea when Didier Drogba became the next to receive his marching orders, given a straight red card for a rash two-footed tackle on Adel Taarabt. Chelsea came back superbly in the second half and carved out a string of chances to score, with Nicolas Anelka coming closest with a late header, but Rangers held on for the win.
QPR boss Neil Warnock was pleased with the victory. "It was a fantastic result for the fans. We had a plan and it worked to a treat."
Van der Vaart bags a brace
Tottenham Hotspur moved up one place with a 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers, who slipped back to the foot of the table after the defeat at Ewood Park. Rafael van der Vaart put Spurs ahead before Mauro Formica levelled for Rovers on 28 minutes. But Van der Vaart clinched it for Spurs with his second on 53 minutes.
Elsewhere Sunday, Arsenal captain Robin van Persie came to the rescue once again as the Gunners downed Stoke City 3-1 at the Emirates.
Van Persie, came off the bench to score Arsenal's second and third goals after Peter Crouch had levelled for Stoke following Gervinho's opener. The win saw Arsenal move up to seventh position.
At Craven Cottage, Everton scored twice in injury time to clinch a 3-1 victory over Fulham. Everton took the lead through Royston Drenthe after only three minutes before substitute Bryan Ruiz levelled for the Cottagers in the 67th minute. But with a draw looming Louis Saha made it 2-1 for Everton before Jack Rodwell made it 3-1 three minutes into stoppage time.