Have City knocked United off their perch?
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini was quick to say that his team’s 6-1 mauling of arch-rivals United meant little more than another three points in the bag, but the Italian must surely be hoping it could signal a shift in the balance of power.
Having knocked Liverpool off their perch when they won a record 19th league title last season, United now face the prospect of playing second fiddle to City in England and Manchester, should their heaviest defeat to their neighbours in 56 years prove to be more than just a temporary setback.
Ferguson and several pundits wasted no time in pointing out United were undone after central defender Jonny Evans was sent off for a professional foul early in the second half.
But City were already on top at that point and earned their extra man on the pitch by carving United open with a defence-splitting pass — which left Evans only with the alternative of letting Mario Balotelli run through on goal.
Fielding his unpredictable compatriot Balotelli instead of Edin Dzeko up front turned out to be a masterstroke by Mancini, much like his entire strategy which worked to devastating effect.
Any hopes of a trademark United comeback when Darren Fletcher made it 3-1 vanished after late substitute Dzeko scored a brace to throw the blue half of Manchester into raptures, prompting Ferguson to adopt an unfamiliar line in his post-match reactions.
“We just kept attacking. It’s alright playing with the history books but common sense has to come in at times. With the experience we had at the back, we should have realised that and settled for what we had when it went to 4-1,” Ferguson told the club’s official website (www.manutd.com).
But the Scot, who has been in charge at Old Trafford for 25 years, never brought up any of his teams to settle for defeat no matter what the situation on the pitch.
Hence he can hardly blame his 10-man side for trying to do the impossible — a trait which has made United as feared by their rivals as they have been successful under Ferguson.
Instead, Ferguson might want to question his own decisions in picking his team, with Fletcher looking completely at sea as the holding midfielder while the young Danny Welbeck clearly lacked the derby experience required at this level.
Humble and graceful in victory, Mancini will now focus on rooting out any complacency that might creep into City’s dressing room as they aim to win their first league title since 1968.