Manuel Pellegrini’s first Manchester derby could not have gone any better had he written the script himself.
Superbly worked goals from veterans of these neighbourly spats, Sergio Aguero and Yaya Toure, gave the Blues a half-time lead that they thoroughly deserved and never looked like relinquishing their iron grip.
There was a fluidity and grace to the game that the pantheon of top class names on the team sheet signposted and the raw energy and primal urgings from the side lines made it another derby day to remember rather than forget – at least for City fans!
So often it is not a moment of genius that settles these local disputes but rather a cruel twist of fate’s fickle finger or a nerve induced howler. Not this time.
City’s opening goal in the 16th minute oozed class. Samir Nasri, who enjoyed a superb afternoon, linked perfectly with Aleks Kolarov and then the whipped in cross looked as though it might slip behind Aguero when the quicksilver Argentine volleyed home superbly.
The home side with Toure pulling the midfield strings and Alvaro Negredo keeping United’s defenders at full stretch were always in command.
Joe Hart didn’t have a save to make but it wasn’t until first half injury time that the lead was doubled. A beautifully worked training ground routine saw Negredo – what a derby debut – flicked on Nasri’s corner and Toure finished at the far post.
The psychological blow of that goal seemed to stay with the Reds at the start of the second half as City doubled their lead within five minutes of the restart.
First Aguero had the simplest of tap-ins (47mins) after more telepathic work between Kolarov and Negredo and then Nasri capped a brilliant first hour (50mins) converting after Jesus Navas sprinted into open space and made full use of it with a superb cross that was volleyed home.
For Pellegrini and Moyes this was a first taste of the visceral fluctuations of Mancunian derby. However, with City’s Chilean leader a veteran of the Madrid versus Barca ‘El Clasico’ and Moyes well-versed in Merseyside’s neighbourly squabbles neither team lacked in knowledge or experience on the tiller.
Indeed happy though Blues fans were not to see Sir Alex Ferguson in the opposition dugout, the presence of Moyes did little for pre-match confidence given that he seemingly had a jinx on Roberto Mancini’s side. By half time all those worries had evaporated into the early autumn sunshine. So much so that City fans were joyously taunting the United manager by signing his name.
Both sides came into the game after midweek Champions League glory and on seven points from four games – a satisfactory if not spectacular start when you are fully expected by the pundits to repeat the feat of the previous two seasons and fill the top two places in the Premier League table.
But this game provided the opportunity to put an exclamation mark behind the opening six weeks of the embryonic campaign and stylish City took that chance with both hands and a toothy grin.
There was a relentless increase in the tension and pace of an occasion that on the pitch that settled into a discernable rhythm from the off – a cadence and tempo set by Pellegrini’s attacking virtuosos backed by Ivorian steel.
Yaya Toure can be a destroyer of the bravest, stoutest resistance on the football pitch and he majestically dismissed Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini.
United were unusually flaccid but they weren’t really allowed to play as City defended in banks and then attacked with élan and class.
Pellegrini may have been helped by the team sheet but it is hard to think that any player could have made a difference to the result.
Line up news on these occasions is always keenly debated and awaited and although the Mancini/Ferguson era of derbies more often than not managed to raise eyebrows and expectations in fairly equal measure the 3pm announcement didn’t cause too much murmuring.
For City the chosen ones up front were Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo whilst in response the Reds fielded Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney, the latter sporting the headband that put fans of a certain vintage in mind of the 1970s tennis epics featuring Messrs McEnroe and Borg.
Having cruised into a 4-0 lead, City rather eased off. James Milner came off the bench to prevent any late cataclysmic collapse and though Evra hit the post for United late on and Rooney then scored with a superb free kick this was as one-sided a derby as there has ever been.