Smalling, booked in the first half for tugging back Aguero, could consider himself fortunate not to have been red carded for a second successive visit to the Etihad when he tripped the elusive Aguero late in the game.
United’s spirit was summed up by matchwinner Rashford who kept running despite suffering from cramp. He couldn’t be replaced because Van Gaal had used all his substitutes.
This latest setback defeat compounded City’s terrible record against top half of the table teams – two wins in 14 games.
It is a record that has cost them the title but is also in left them in danger of failing to qualify for t the Champions League next season.
They have been on the slide in the Premier League for several weeks and with West Ham and United now breathing down their necks, plus injuries to key players, they are facing the unthinkable scenario of finishing out side the top four.
Leicester champions? City failing to qualify for the Champions League?
You couldn’t have made that up last August.
Man City (4-2-3-1): Hart 6 (Cabellero 49, 6); Sagna 6, Demichelis 4 (Bony 53, 5), Mangala 5, Clichy 5; Toure 6, Fernandinho 6; Navas 5, Silva 6, Sterling 5 (Fernando 25, 5); Aguero 7.
Booked: Mangala. NEXT UP: Bournemouth PL (A) – April 2.
Man Utd (4-2-3-1): De Gea 7; Darmian 6 (Fosu-Mensah 83, 5), Smalling 7, Blind 7, Rojo 6 (Valencia 62, 5); Carrick 7, Schneiderlin 6; Lingard 7, Mata 6 (Schweinsteiger 70, 6), Martial 7; Rashford 7.
Goals: Rashford 16. Booked: Smalling. NEXT UP: Everton PL (h) – April 3.
Referee: M. Oliver (Northumberland)