Samir Nasri was the villain in this fixture last season, when his half-hearted attempt at blocking a Robin van Persie free-kick sent the ball spinning past Joe Hart to seal a Manchester United victory, but the Frenchman was one of the key performers in this superb City display.
Both sides were not far off playing a simple 4-4-2, but whereas United were rigid and unimaginative throughout Nasri was the only player who varied his positioning intelligently. His role helped City in two respects. First, whereas the other wide midfielders stayed close to the touchlines, Nasri drifted inside to help City dominate the centre of the pitch. The strength of Yaya Touré and Fernandinho contributed to the home side's supremacy but Nasri always provided an obvious forward option, and when he received the ball his link-up play was quick, neat and unfussy – he misplaced only four of 47 passes.
His narrowness also encouraged Aleksandar Kolarov forward on the overlap, and the left-back was Manuel Pellegrini's most dangerous attacking weapon in the first half. The Serbian created the first moment of danger: Nasri helped City build an attack down the right, before they switched play to the opposite flank, finding Kolarov's late run and his cross forced Nemanja Vidic to clear from inside the six-yard box.
Soon after, Kolarov provided the cross for Sergio Agüero's opener, after Nasri held on to the ball, waited for the overlap and then released with a neat backheel – the normally attentive Antonio Valencia switched off, allowing the Serbian space. This continued to be a problem – midway through the first half, Kolarov motored forward to receive another pass from Nasri, and half-heartedly appealed for a penalty when Chris Smalling blocked his run. The comprehensive victory proved City had been superior, but Nasri and Kolarov's combination was the primary reason for their taking control.