MANCHESTER, England, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Premier League leaders Manchester City turned on the style with a 3-1 win over Manchester United in their derby clash on Sunday, leaving Pep Guardiola’s unbeaten side two points clear of Liverpool at the top.
While a long season remains for City to prove again their dominance in the Premier League, there is no doubt at all about who are the top dogs in the city of Manchester.
It was not until the 86th minute, when substitute Ilkay Gundogan finished off a 44-pass move for City’s third that the outcome was decided.
But when it came to the quality of their football, their passing, movement, organisation, individual flair and pace, City were in a different league from Jose Mourinho’s side.
United are now 12 points behind City, languishing in eighth place, and that gap was evident throughout this encounter where United could offer little more than determination and effort in response to the smooth and stylish display from the champions.
David Silva fired City ahead in the 12th minute after a Raheem Sterling cross from the left was turned back across the goal by Bernardo Silva and the Spaniard took his time before blasting home.
For the rest of the half, City were comfortable in possession, probing but not overly threatening United’s goal and seemingly content to wait for a response from Mourinho’s men.
But in just the third minute after the interval, City doubled their lead — Aguero bursting goalwards and playing a clever exchange with Riyad Mahrez, before thumping the ball, from a tight angle, past David de Gea.
Mourinho, who was without injured French midfielder Paul Pogba, brought on Romelu Lukaku for Jesse Lingard in the 57th minute and within seconds the Belgian forward helped get his team back in the game.
Lukaku was brought down inside the area by City keeper Ederson and French forward Anthony Martial confidently converted the spot kick.
But it was a false dawn.
United came back from two goals down to win this fixture last season and showed similar character in their Champions League win at Juventus on Wednesday, but they did not have the tools to open up City nor keep their own rearguard secure.
Four minutes from the end City secured the victory, their 10th in 12 games this season, when the outstanding Bernardo Silva picked out Gundogan in the area and the German made no mistake as he made it 3-1.
It was a win that carried a strong message, Guardiola’s team may have broken records last year but they are on course for more this season.
Guardiola though is not getting carried away about the narrow gap his team have over Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool.
“It is two points, four points from Chelsea, it is nothing but it is good, especially (considering) where we have come from.
“When you win 100 points (last season), people ask — can you retain your level? Everybody has to be on a level if they want to stay there,” he said.
City are targeting silverware at home and in Europe but Mourinho’s focus is on the less glamorous but necessary attempt to qualify for the Champions League.
“We are outside the top four, how can we speak about the title? Let’s fight to close the gap to jump into the top four,” he said.
“There is 12 points [difference between the sides]. Our team is improving a lot. Even defensively, despite conceding three goals, it was a positive performance - it was individual mistakes.”
Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ian Chadband