Bruno Fernandes netted the opener within the first two minutes from the penalty spot, tucking away after Anthony Martial was fouled by Gabriel Jesus. The home side did start to dominate thereafter, but didn’t threaten an equaliser with Ilkay Gundogan’s couple of tame efforts and Riyad Mahrez flashing one wide the only attempts of note.
Rodri struck the crossbar with a fine hit minutes into the second half, but United went straight down the other end and doubled their lead thanks to a Luke Shaw effort scuffed into the bottom corner.
Anthony Martial missed a golden chance to add a third when Ederson saved his low finish, before sub Phil Foden almost created and finished a brilliant route back into the match for City. John Stones and Gundogan suffered further frustration in the closing stages, as City’s 21-game win streak came to an end. Here are five things we learned from the Manchester derby on Sunday.
Most onlookers might have expected the pattern of this game to be set from kick-off: lots of City possession, lots of United running and defending, interspersed with counter-attacks.
That definitely was the case after the first 10 minutes or so, but before that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team came to play in a different manner entirely: a high press, very quick to get runners past the defensive line and an energy about their overall play which was missing in midweek against Crystal Palace.
The first goal - and a couple of other chances soon after - came as a result of that clear plan for United to attack City, and it really seemed to surprise the home side who were rather more hoping to ease themselves into the match and begin their process of wearing down the opposition.
Below-par De Bruyne
One player often sums up City’s style and performance level, and that’s Kevin De Bruyne.
It’s arguable that the same was true here, just not in the usual manner: his first-half showing was sloppy and lax, several times passing behind team-mates or out of play, with his attempts to create only seeming to frustrate.
He certainly picked up after the break, freeing Jesus and Mahrez several times and doing good work on the overlap to create a few chances, but ultimately his final ball was as slightly off the mark as City’s clinical edge was.
When the Belgian plays well, City tick in style, but without him in top gear on this occasion, too few others stepped up for once.
Raheem Sterling, Gundogan and Jesus were also notable attacking outlets who failed to shine.
During the midweek draw with Crystal Palace, Luke Shaw was one of the few stand-out players for the Red Devils, a continuation of the performance levels which have seen him be one of the best in the side for some time and the undisputed first-choice left-back ahead of new signing Alex Telles.
Here it was more of the same, a run for the 25-year-old which is now not just good form, but simply very good quality on show with consistency.
A second-half goal was as deserve as it was unexpected, started by Shaw with a good change of direction and pass and finished by the same player into the far bottom corner.
Anthony Martial and stand-in goalkeeper Dean Henderson were others who deserved a mention for good displays, but Shaw is the one doing it on a game-to-game basis.
Winning run comes to an end
Of course, City were always likely to stumble at some stage, but they would no doubt have rather the eventual defeat came in a different fixture.
A majestic run of 21 victories in succession has basically put City’s seal on the title already, while also seeing them continue domestic cup progress and be in a great position for European progression.
But a derby defeat, and a loss to the team in second, will still sting.
West Brom were the last team to avoid defeat against Pep Guardiola’s side; Tottenham - over four months ago - were the last ones to beat them.
As for United themselves, a top-four finish looks ever-more assured and second place is theirs once more, though it will still require more performances of this type than the style offered recently against Palace, Chelsea and West Brom.
The big positive remains United’s away form.
They are yet to lose on the road in the Premier League this season, with this victory ending a run of four successive draws in that regard - and what a three points they’ll feel this is.
It’s far from proof United are title challengers, but it’s a result which should offer confidence that next season, with more improvements, they can go closer once more.