This was a scoreline which did not reflect the result. Manchester United lost to Manchester City by two goals to one, but the true scale of City’s superiority was to be found in other numbers — they had 64 percent of the possession, and completed 81 percent of their passes to United’s 70 percent. City were fluid and positive on the ball, United were passive and reactive, and both teams can say that they got what they deserved from this tie. City claim their record-tying 14th successive win in the Premier League, and a seemingly-unassailable 11-point lead — while United can only reflect how they might have done had they been braver against a highly imperfect defence.
Tellingly, the best player for United was probably David De Gea, who made two fine stops from Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva.
Romelu Lukaku was at fault for both of City’s goals, and missed a late chance which a forward of his experience and ability should have dispatched with ease at the first attempt. Ander Herrera failed to prompt the counterattack for United too often, and the team as a whole looked largely subdued going forward.
Manager rating out of 10
4 — Jose Mourinho again paid the price for his conservatism in a big match. It is one thing to have tactics of containment, but United did not even have a flurry of pressure at the start — they gave City the bulk of possession from the opening whistle. Ederson, City’s goalkeeper, completed more passes than any United player in the first half. That kind of pressure was bound to tell in the end. When chasing the game, too, he did not have good playmaking options on the bench, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan nowhere near the squad.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK David De Gea, 7 — Made two fine saves, and looked sharp whenever called upon. Distributed the ball well, and continued his strong form from the previous week.
DF Ashley Young, 6 — Was exposed glaringly on two crucial occasions — playing City onside for the first goal, and then not being in position for their second. A great shame as he was otherwise very attentive, but could not cope with the sheer scale of pressure.
DF Chris Smalling, 5 — Was reasonable enough at the back for the most part but could not help his team to build the play, and must be criticised for that. Perhaps, too, he suffered from the lack of options ahead of him.
DF Marcos Rojo, 5 — Made one excellent block in the first half but was also pulled out of position by the superb movement of Gabriel Jesus. An uncomfortable half for him before being withdrawn through injury.
DF Antonio Valencia, 5 — Though Fabian Delph is not the best defender, Valencia did not often threaten him by running in behind him or taking him on. A disappointingly reserved outing from him.
MF Nemanja Matic, 7 — The most composed of United’s outfield players, he frequently turned away from trouble but rarely had good passing options ahead of him. If United had given him greater support, the result could have been different.
MF Ander Herrera, 5 — A performance which sadly typified United’s — reactive and unambitious in attack, where he paused in receiving possession and allowed City’s defence to recover. A far cry currently from the footballer who once used to attack the gaps.
MF Jesse Lingard, 6 — Worked hard, as ever, pressing high up the pitch — but to little effect, given the little possession that he enjoyed.
MF Anthony Martial, 6 — Could have been slightly more efficient with a chance he had in the second half cutting infield rather than outfield, but was largely a victim of his team’s policy of containment.
FW Marcus Rashford, 7 — United’s sharpest forward. Took his goal well, took the game to his opposite man, and showed courage whenever in attack.
FW Romelu Lukaku, 3 — Probably his unhappiest game for United thus far. He began the game with a fine layoff to launch a counterattack, but thereafter his touch was uncertain. He failed to clear the ball for David Silva’s opener. Worse still, he was directly at fault for City’s winner, slashing the ball back into his six-yard box where Nicolas Otamendi seized upon it. He hit a good chance high and wide in the first half, then — with his team looking for an equaliser late on — he hit the ball directly at Ederson. A night to forget — but he won’t be allowed to forget it anytime soon.
DF Victor Lindelof, 7 (for Rojo, 46) — Had a fairly good game amid the turmoil, shepherding his man away from danger and handling Gabriel Jesus with notable calm more than once.
FW Zlatan Ibrahimovic, NR (for Lingard, 76) — Some good hold-up play but it seemed strange to replace Lingard, who brought more energy and dynamism to the role.
MF Juan Mata, NR (for Herrera, 82) — Got into good positions once or twice but was not able to get on the ball and truly harm City.
Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC’s Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.