United may have lost this bout between Manchester’s heavyweights - but with a 12-point advantage and just seven games remaining, the Reds still remain on track to win the battle overall and reclaim the title from City.
That's the overriding positive after goals from James Milner and Sergio Aguero, before and after a Vincent Kompany own goal, gave victory on the night to the Blues.
The matchday programme billed it as a ‘Game of Thrones’ – last season’s champions against this year’s most convincing pursuant of the title - and yet on the night no team would be de-throned, no crown bestowed upon this season’s champions. Not yet. That said, even with a robust 15-point advantage going into this fixture allowing room to manoeuvre, this was a match United desperately wanted to win as an assertion of dominance. The Reds will have to ensure the league table, a much better barometer, does that come the end of the season.
Neither Nemanja Vidic nor Jonny Evans, both nursing niggles, were included in Sir Alex’s starting eleven or named among the substitutes, and so Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jones were paired in central defence for the first time since January 2012 against Newcastle, a game United lost 3-0. But leading up to the derby Sir Alex extolled his faith in the qualities of young defender Jones, who has excelled this season and is destined to take up a role in the heart of the back four. He certainly didn't let anyone down and had a heavy hand in forcing Kompany to turn the ball into his own net.
In front of the defence, Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs, who started his 37th Manchester derby, were the deep-lying midfielders, while Ashley Young,