Manchester City stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to 11 points and created top-flight history with a 14th successive victory this season as they overcame Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Pep Guardiola’s side also ended United’s 40-match unbeaten run at home – which stretched back to their win here in September 2016 – to strike a potentially decisive blow against their closest rivals in the title race.
City took the lead their vast superiority deserved when man-of-the-match David Silva hooked home from close range after confusion at a corner on 42 minutes, only for United to be handed a lifeline in first-half stoppage time when poor defending from Nicolas Otamendi and Fabian Delph allowed Marcus Rashford to steal in for a composed finish.
Otamendi made amends nine minutes after the break when Romelu Lukaku – who had a nightmare game – lashed at a clearance in the area and the City defender pounced on the rebound to score.
City, who have dropped only two points in their first 16 games, had opportunities to extend their lead but it was keeper Ederson who made the decisive late intervention with a miraculous double late save from the luckless Lukaku and substitute Juan Mata.
Guardiola’s side become the first team to win 14 successive top-flight games in a single season, also levelling Arsenal’s outright record, set between between February and August 2002.
Is the title race over?
It is a brave call to declare the Premier League title race over in early December – but the statistics and evidence is piling up to suggest the chase is on for second place behind Manchester City.
City will effectively have to lose four games while all of their rivals need to keep winning, tough to see with Guardiola’s team having won every league match since Everton took a point at Etihad Stadium in the second game of the season.
The trip to Old Trafford, and the renewal of old rivalries between Guardiola and Mourinho, was the most eagerly awaited game of the season between the two teams at the top of the table and was seen as the acid test of City’s apparent infallibility.
And those looking for cracks in the Guardiola armour pointed to City having to secure three wins against Huddersfield Town, Southampton and West Ham United with late, late goals in their most recent league games.
If City’s confidence had been shaken at all by having to fight for victories, there was no sign here as they played with a composure and positivity that was a level above Mourinho’s Manchester United.
They needed Ederson’s late heroics, while the hosts also thought they should have had a penalty for Otamendi’s challenge on Ander Herrera, with the United midfielder instead booked for diving.
But there can be no doubt City were deserved winners and even showed the street wisdom of champions to run down the clock in the closing seconds, to the fury and frustration of Old Trafford.
The Premier League title race may not be over – but there was no escaping the feeling that a crucial blow has been inflicted on United and the rest of Manchester City’s pursuers.
Man of the match – David Silva (Manchester City)
David Silva celebrates scoring the opener for Manchester City against Manchester United
Manchester City midfielder David Silva scored for the second match in a row and was the game’s outstanding performer
Silva may be small in stature but he stood head and shoulders above every other player in the intense heat of this Premier League title battle.
The Spaniard may now be 31 but it is little wonder Manchester City were so delighted to secure him on a new contract until 2020 recently.
Silva showed again why he deserves to be ranked as a Premier League great and one of the finest players to play for Manchester City.
He had more time on the ball than any other player, the hallmark of class, and always seemed to have more options in possession than any other player.
Silva pounced for City’s crucial first goal, held his own in the physical exchanges and even shrugged off a heavy bang to the head in a clash with United’s Marcos Rojo.
It was a complete performance from a world-class player.
Mourinho too negative?
Manchester City fans stayed in their seats long after the final whistle delivering a taunt that had echoed around Old Trafford throughout this landmark victory.
“Park The Bus, Park The Bus, Man United…” was the chant that was met with a muted response from the home support who had seen City show more attacking intent and flair than Mourinho’s side could muster.
And until a predictable late charge, this was a strangely muted display from Manchester United. Their need for victory was arguably greater than City’s as they started the game with an eight-point deficit, but they spent much of the first half on the back foot.
Mourinho’s line-up demonstrated attacking intent with the inclusion of Lukaku, Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial. United also missed the power and influence of Paul Pogba, suspended after his red card at Arsenal.
It was still a surprise, however, to see City so comprehensively dominant from the opening exchanges and United were barely able to believe their luck that they went in at half-time on level terms.
Lukaku’s lack of confidence and touch did not help and there was an element of good fortune about Ederson’s late saves – but there was no doubt United did not push hard enough for victory and were second best.
‘The gods of football are behind Manchester City’ – match reaction
Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho: “My first reaction is I feel sorry for referee Michael Oliver because he had a very good match but unfortunately he made an important mistake.
“The result was made with a big penalty not given [on Ander Herrera]. That would have been 2-2 with 20 minutes to go. Michael was unlucky because it was a clear penalty.”
“Manchester City are a very good team and they are protected by the luck, and the gods of football are behind them.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola: “We won at Old Trafford again, that is why I am the most pleased and of course for the three points. We played good, with a lot of courage. I’m so satisfied.
“We won because we were better. We are still in December, if we have 11 points when we play the second derby in April then maybe I will tell you that we have the title.”