Three points were required at Everton after last week's dismal derby defeat and the champions ground out a 1-0 victory to muster the right response.
Admittedly, the Reds weren't at their most fluent - and Tom Cleverley's injury after a bright return to Barclays Premier League action was a real setback - but Javier Hernandez's 19th-minute goal proved decisive. Any suggestion that the Merseysiders would tire after being taken into extra-time by Chelsea in a midweek cup tie proved ill-founded as United had to batten down the hatches for much of the second half.
Sir Alex made five changes to the team that lost to City last Sunday with Wayne Rooney starting in a withdrawn role alongside Cleverley and Darren Fletcher, and Jonny Evans returning from the suspension he served at Aldershot.
In a breathless opening, Seamus Coleman cut inside Patrice Evra to shoot at David De Gea within the first 18 seconds and Tim Howard pulled off a good stop at the other end when Ji-sung Park tried to convert a Danny Welbeck cross inside two minutes.
United took a firm grip on proceedings and some sustained pressure led to a well-worked opener. Cleverley and Welbeck helped the ball wide to Evra and the full-back's dangerous low cross was tapped home by Hernandez with his left foot. Although Welbeck nearly latched onto a risky headed backpass by Phil Jagielka, the champions were unable to carve out too many openings and Everton came back into the match.
De Gea saved from Leon Osman after Marouane Fellaini beat Evans in the air and Jack Rodwell fired wide when afforded far too much space after Evra conceded possession cheaply. The hosts were unlucky not to draw level with 40