"You're the worst fucking champions we've ever seen," was a chant Manchester United fans taunted Manchester City with a year ago, but on Tuesday night it was their neighbours' turn. City inflicted a 10th Barclays Premier League defeat on David Moyes' side, as the Scot was spared crisis talk for all of six days.
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Two Edin Džeko strikes moved City to within three points of league leaders Chelsea, with two games still in hand. Manchester could yet host the Premier League trophy for a fourth successive year, although if there is any hope of it bearing red ribbons again vast changes are required on the pitch and off it at Old Trafford.
United have not reached double-figures for League losses in a single campaign since the 1990-91 season. They finished sixth that year, Sir Alex Ferguson's fourth full term, and won a European trophy. Moyes could still accomplish a similar feat, but the chances are as remote as a Tom Cleverley winner.
City re-emphasised, six months on from their 4-1 hammering of their neighbours, the gaping chasm between football club owners who invest and owners who leech. City signed footballers, whereas United signed sponsors in pre-season, and it was evident inside 42 seconds, as they had two attempts at goal before Džeko put them ahead.
United were so inferior their crowd roared like Celtic Park on a European night whenever they stymied a City attack. They have become accustomed to their plucky underdog status under Moyes, and the defiant roars of "20 times Man United" and "Forever and ever" were subtle messages of support for the club, rather than the manager.
Nine days on from the Liverpool walloping, the Glazer family owners must decide whether a club countenance two abject showings against their two biggest rivals, historically and geographically. The brutal truth is they cannot.
It began as disastrously for United as it did delightfully for City. Rafael da Silva superbly denied David Silva from the middle of the area but City regained possession, Samir Nasri turned Rio Ferdinand inside out and struck David de Gea's right-hand post before, third time lucky, Džeko converted the rebound after 42 of the most dominant seconds this season. Selected ahead of Álvaro Negredo, Džeko hit the sixth at Old Trafford two-and-a-half years ago and City's start suggested they could match that tally.
The groans at Cleverley's inclusion were audible an hour before kick-off. What exacerbated the moaning was the absence of Ryan Giggs, who played a pivotal role in United's European recovery against Olympiakos last week, from the squad altogether. Cleverley was handed his first start since the first leg Greek tragedy four weeks ago and was still devoid of confidence and self-belief. Even when he ghosted into advantageous areas, he was ignored. Shinji Kagawa replaced him at the pause.
Paul Scholes, a reluctant pundit for the night, said "United without pace is nothing" and it looked it. City were intense, sharp and determined, as opposed to their lethargic hosts, even with the immobile Džeko deputising for the peskier Sergio Agüero. De Gea magnificently denied Džeko a second in the 20th minute as United's defence looked as secure as Ukraine's future. United could not handle the diminutively dazzling David Silva again.
City still looked porous in defence, though. Rafael, Juan Mata, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck were all guilty of a shambolic end product, although Welbeck did elicit a foul from Vincent Kompany in the 13th minute that merited a booking. The Belgian's compatriot, Marouane Fellaini, was fortunate to escape with a yellow when he elbowed Pablo Zabaleta.
Mata, still without a goal since his club-record arrival in January, wasted the hosts' best chance with a spooned effort over Hart's crossbar from Rafael's low cross five minutes before the interval. It wasn't the first time his hands rose to his head, as he and Fellaini appeared to be in perpetual disagreement over United's directness.
A combination of Cleverley's withdrawal and Kagawa's introduction at least buoyed United's support at the beginning of the second period. Moyes was barely out of the technical area, cajoling and encouraging players he inherited and £64.6 million worth of talent he has bought. The first cries of "We'll never die" were aired in the 51st minute, just as Fernandinho almost doubled City's advantage from Kompany's flick on. The Blues did not have to wait long.
Džeko darted towards the front post and volleyed Nasri's corner past De Gea to become the fourth City player to reach 20 goals this season. It was difficult to tell whether Rio Ferdinand, purportedly his marker, was slow tracking him or that his pace was a true reflection of his creaky 35 years.
Hart saved well from a Welbeck effort reminiscent of his flick against Sweden at Euro 2012 and repelled a Rooney free-kick, yet United's powers of recovery have diminished along with their aura and there was never a sense of belief amongst their 73,000 fans that the team would extinguish City's lead. Yaya Touré, United's bogeyman, made it three in added time to match Liverpool's winning margin.
Ferguson was in attendance. "Fergie, Fergie give us a wave," urged City's following. It was swiftly changed to "Moyesy" and then "Moyesy, is the chosen one". That banner is unlikely to remain on the Stretford End for much longer.
United: De Gea; Rafael Evra Ferdinand Jones; Fellaini Carrick Cleverley, Welbeck Mata; Rooney
City: Hart; Zabaleta Clichy Kompany Demichelis; Touré Fernandinho; Nasri Silva Navas; Džeko