Manchester City returned to the Premier League summit with a convincing derby victory over Manchester United at Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s side were seeking the result they needed to go back to the top of the table after Liverpool’s lunchtime win over Fulham at Anfield – and it was rarely in doubt after David Silva bundled home an early goal to give them a narrow interval advantage.
City got the second goal their superiority deserved with Sergio Aguero’s rasping, rising finish past David de Gea three minutes into the second half following an exchange of passes with Riyad Mahrez.
Jose Mourinho’s side, without injured Paul Pogba, barely mounted a serious threat but were given hope of earning an unlikely point just before the hour when Romelu Lukaku was hauled down by Ederson seconds after he had come on as substitute. Anthony Martial sent the Brazilian the wrong way from the spot.
It briefly revived memories of last season’s dramatic derby here when United came from two goals down to win, but City never looked like losing control and wrapped up the win two minutes from time when substitute Ilkay Gundogan took advantage of static United defending to beat De Gea from close range following a 44-pass move.
Who can stop rampant Man City?
Manchester City’s answer to Liverpool briefly returning to the head of the Premier League table was emphatic as this win was a comfortable as the scoreline suggests, arguably even more so.
Liverpool and Chelsea remain unbeaten in the Premier League, although Maurizio Sarri’s side slipped as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Everton at Stamford Bridge.
They remain very much in the title shake-up, as do fourth-placed Tottenham.
The problem for the chasing pack appears to be that Manchester City are currently operating on a different level to everyone else.
United were probably feeling pleased with themselves that somehow, despite barely laying a glove on City, they were actually still in contention for a point until Gundogan’s late goal ended all the arguments.
And it was a goal that summed up City under Guardiola.
The finish looked simple enough as Gundogan slipped in past some static United defenders to score with ease but it crowned a 44-pass sequence, the most before a goal since Juan Mata scored for Manchester United against Southampton in September 2015.
City are two points clear of Liverpool but have a goal difference of +31 as opposed to +18 and this was another of their most difficult fixtures negotiated with their usual flair.
Man City’s old guard key to victory
Manchester City’s latest win was built on the foundations built by three established members of their recent glories.
Sergio Aguero may have gone from brunette to striking blonde but under the new hairstyle remained the same lethal striker who has been the centrepiece of so many of their successes.
It was classic Aguero when he scored City’s crucial second three minutes after half-time, exchanging passes with Mahrez before lashing home a near-post finish that carried so much power, De Gea barely had time to react.
It was his 151st goal in 218 Premier League games and his 208th goal in 307 games in all competitions for City. These statistics emphasise his status as one of the modern game’s great strikers.
David Silva, at 32 now an elder statesman at City, set them on their way with the early opener and showed his usual knack of finding space in crowded areas and ability to dictate tempo even at the most frenetic times.
At the heart of it all was the unsung Fernandinho, the 33-year-old Brazilian patrolling midfield with class and quality, working effectively in the shadows.
Guardiola knows his worth – and will also know he will be very difficult to replace when the time comes.
Man United’s slow start finishes title hopes
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has bemoaned his team’s slow starts this season and appears at a loss to discover the cure. And it is now too late to salvage any title aspirations.
They had survived a couple of narrow escapes before Silva scored after 12 minutes to put them on the back foot once more and to give City the sort of control and impetus they relish.
United clearly missed the injured Paul Pogba, who helped turn this derby around last season, but this was still a performance lacking in invention and serious attacking threat.
And while Gundogan’s goal crowned a glorious move, Mourinho will have looked on in anguish as United defenders stood around like statues.
United are now 12 points adrift of City. They can forget the Premier League title for another season.
Man of the match – David Silva (Manchester City)
‘We played with a bit of fear’ – what they said
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola speaking to Match of the Day: “We deserved the victory. The first half we played a little bit with fear but football is a game and we didn’t want to lose the ball. We didn’t want to attack and they defended well.
“In the second half the game is a bit open so we have to find more space but we made a good performance against a top, top team. We wanted to play good in front of our fans and we know how important it is to play in this game. But we did well and that goal from Sergio Aguero helped us a lot after half-time.
Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho to Sky Sports: “We were in the game until the 80th-something minute and the third goal killed the spirit and morale of the team.
“One thinking is a bad performance and one thinking is a performance with mistakes. I think ours was a performance with mistakes. It is football and for me it is even more football when we have a week where we play three consecutive matches away and Manchester City play three consecutive games at home. Our last match against Juventus left some scars in the team.
“We are outside the top four, how can we speak about the title? Lets fight to close the gap to jump into the top four. If we jump into the top four then lets see the difference.”
A start to forget for United – the best of the stats
- It is the first time since 1990-91 that Manchester United have lost as many as four of their opening 12 games in a top-flight season.
- This is the first time since 1977-78 that United have a negative goal difference after 12 games of a top-flight season.
- It is the first time in English top-flight history that three clubs have remained unbeaten in their opening 12 games of the season (Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea).
- Only Fulham (0) have kept fewer clean sheets than Manchester United (1) in the Premier League this season.
- Man City’s Sergio Aguero has scored eight Premier League goals against Manchester United – only Alan Shearer (10) has more against the Red Devils in the competition.
- There were just 30 seconds between Lukaku coming on as a substitute for Man Utd, and winning the penalty that made it 2-1.
- David Silva has scored in three consecutive home games in all competitions for Man City for the first time.
- This was Jose Mourinho’s 300th Premier League game as manager – despite defeat today, he’s won more games than any other manager in their first 300 in the competition (189)
- Shots on Target