1. Roberto Mancini's wobble continues
In the pre-game programme notes, the Manchester City manager said: "We go into this game in the same position as we did last time United came here in April: three points behind them but with a better goal difference. Hopefully we will end the game as we did eight months ago."
At half-time the Italian was staring at a 2-0 deficit, a six-point margin to United, a week-long inquiry into what this might mean for City's title defence and, more pertinently, his own managerial smarts and long-term future.
The second half answered a few of those questions though the one about why Mario Balotelli started ahead of Carlos Tevez needs further debate (see below). Although City ended on the wrong side of the 3-2 scoreline, Mancini can point to the spirit as evidence the title race will run and run.
2. The Wayne Rooney show
The Liverpudlian continues to build a credible case as a Paul Scholes with pace. After an anonymous start that featured two sharp tackles that may have got him booked, Rooney became the first half's slickest operator, adding two goals as he roamed in and around the fringe of the City area. Each of his goals came from the handbook of classic No10 strikes. The opener had Rooney drifting infield from Ashley Young's pass to move right then shooting to the left beyond a static Joe Hart. The second again harnessed space and movement, with Rooney this time ghosting into the area before pulling the trigger to again beat Hart to his right.
Even as City pulled one back and rained artillery down on David de Gea's goal, Rooney continued to run the game for United, in particular with one crossfield ball that turned City in Scholes-esque fashion.
3. Midfield malfunction
Entering this game, each engine room had not performed smoothly all season, with United's problems in the holding midfield department coming when in retreat, and City's issue the inability to purr in the Rolls-Royce manner of last year's championship winning season. This pattern continued here. When Yaya Touré began one of those ominous rumbles forward that can turn matches for City, United's two defensive midfield operators, Tom Cleverley, and Michael Carrick careered backwards as if on ice.
If this again offered the lack of protection that contributed to United conceding 10 more goals than City's 11 this season, then the Blues stuttering midfield display was embodied by Samir Nasri who is an imposter of the player who starred for Arsenal: it was the Frenchman's half-turn in the wall and his stuck-out left ankle that provide the crucial deflection for Robin van Persie's winning free-kick.
4. City's strikers
On the thorny matter of a strike-force that has scored only 28 goals, nine fewer than United's, Mancini said: "Apart from against Aston Villa recently, we are not scoring as freely as we did last season but I have confidence in all the strikers. They are top-class players and the goals will come – hopefully today!" By the end this faultline still glared as Yaya Touré, a midfielder, and Pablo Zabaleta, a defender, were the names on the scoresheet. Alongside a close-to-hopeless Mario Balotelli, Sergio Agüero offered the brighter moments from the City forward line until Tevez's entrance in the second half, at one point beating a clutch of United defenders beautifully before scuffing the finish.
How Mancini must again curse not signing Robin van Persie who won this derby with a sublime late free-kick and who had previously supplied the afternoon's best moment: the quick-step of a turn and right-foot shot that rebounded off Hart's post.
5. The Carlos Tevez question
The Roberto Mancini-Mario Balotelli Show can now be counted among football's greatest love-hate affairs after the manager gambled on the erratic Italian for only a seventh Premier League start then spent 51 minutes before he hooked the No45 berating him. The big question behind this was what had Balotelli (one league goal, countless strops and questionable attitude) done to deserve the nod ahead of the proven match-winner that is Tevez? Unless an off-field matter is the issue, Tevez's eight goals and thirst to put another one over Sir Alex Ferguson should surely have forced his way into the XI. Where Balotelli appeared lead-footed and lost, Tevez was an immediate and constant thorn in United, and it was his pass to Yaya Touré that created City's first.