Michael Carrick's late goal was not enough to make up the first-half advantage Darius Vassell and Benjani Mwaruwari gave to Manchester City, as the Reds face up to a second derby defeat of the season.
The match was preceded by a moving minute’s silence to the 23 people who lost their lives in Munich fifty years ago. But, come the final whistle, City had all the reason they needed to make plenty of noise.
United seriously missed the energy and attacking intent of Patrice Evra and the spirit and skill of Wayne Rooney, both suspended. It could be a case that the occasion got to United, possibly the events of the past week heaped too much expectation on the match itself. Whatever the reason, the Reds didn't reach anything like top form.
The Reds started brightly enough and enjoyed the first share of the chances. Giggs volleyed narrowly over after eight minutes, then a great move involving the Welshman and Cristiano Ronaldo ended with Carlos Tevez being denied a shot by a last-ditch Richard Dunne tackle.
But there was to be no fairytale beginning and a stark reminder that United were in the cut and thrust of a Manchester derby was given resonance 24 minutes in when City took the lead. A posse of blue shirts surged forward, culminating in Martin Petrov cutting an incisive route through United’s defence to pick out Stephen Ireland. His shot was saved by Edwin van der Sar, as was Darius Vassell’s initial follow-up, but the City striker pounced quickest on the loose ball, finding a way through a clutch of red shirts to put the visitors in front.
There was an understandable air of frustration among Reds supporters, not just at being behind to blue rivals. City pressed and pressure United, whose passing was not as crisp as usual.
The Reds pushed on regardless and were close on numerous