David Moyes keeps on suffering at Old Trafford as City take one of Manuel Pellegrini's 10 steps towards the title
Verses of "Fergie give us a wave, Fergie Fergie give us a wave" and "Moyesie give us a wave, Moyesie, Moyesie give us a wave" were quickly followed by "He's the Chosen One" from the gleeful visiting Manchester City fans as the United manager felt 75,000 pairs of eyes burn into him. This was a scoreline that looked close for a large part of the game but make no mistake: Moyes's side were run off the park for most of the contest. Before kick-off the Scot had said: "We will be doing everything we possibly can tonight to avenge the disappointing result we had at the Etihad Stadium earlier this season.
"At this present time, we sit behind City in the Premier League table, but that is something we will look to rectify in the future. The title race is something we're aiming to be involved in he future, just as we have in the past." This feels a long way away at the moment.
Cometh the 167th Mancunian squabble, cometh Edin Dzeko, the maligned striker who, as David Platt once said, scores "heavy goals". Here he was at it again, netting twice with the aplomb sometimes glaringly missing from his game. Not this night. As with the rest of his colleagues Dzeko coasted through the match and it is must have been with some satisfaction that when he wandered off with 11 minutes left it was Álvaro Negredo, the man he has usurped in the XI, who came on for him.
More materially, the 28-year-old's finishes hand City a vital victory. "Winning today is one of ten steps that we must take towards the title. We hope that we can play as well as we did at the Etihad in September." So said the City manager, Manuel Pellegrini, who also claimed in his pre-match interview that City were not favourites for this match. If they win at the Emirates this weekend, it is their crown to lose.
The Spaniard scored an impressive 19 times for the west London club last season yet since his club record £37m transfer to United in January Mata has hardly had a sniff of a debut strike despite his stated intention to start piling them up. "Of course I want to score goals – that is a big aim for me, and I will try and provide more assists. But it is all about winning for us. The collective aim of the team is more important than any personal ones. As long as we win every game until the end of the season, I will be very happy," he said very early on in his United career.
With that prospect ebbing away with every advancing minute, Mata must have wondered what had happened to the opportunity that supposedly knocked with Robin van Persie's injury. This was supposed to open up the stage for Mata to become orchestrator of a fluid United side. Instead, as has been the script so far, he was peripheral, at best.
The ghost of Paul Scholes haunted United's second-rate midfield as the retired midfield maestro said of Marouane Fellaini in a pre-match interview: "He's not been great, has he? You have to admit that. He did have problems with his wrist and I know he missed a lot of games but, for the money they paid for him, I'd be expecting a lot more, to be honest with you. I'd be expecting a few goals, at least. For a central midfielder at Manchester United for £27m, I'm expecting a few goals." Ouch. Scholes' dissection of the Belgian's contribution was underlined in a timid performance that was hardly the offering of a near-£30m player. In this he was not alone though, as Tom Cleverley, who with Michael Carrick made up United's midfield trio, lasted just the first half before being replaced: against Yaya Touré, Fernandinho and David Silva, their inferiority was clear.
City needed less than a minute to plant their flag in enemy territory, with the Edin Dzeko goal that immediately crushed any optimism built up from the wins over Olympiakos and West Ham United in the home team's previous outings. For Moyes's team to hand their fierce rivals such an early present was hardly the best way to hope to narrow the points gap to their cross-town rivals from the yawning 12 it was at kick-off.
The sluggishness that allowed Silva, Touré and Nasri to walk through the defence ahead of Dzeko's opener offered yet more ammunition to those who see a United squad this year who are yet to be completely convinced of their manager and so are that vital fraction slower. To be fair to United – and Moyes – they rallied well following the initial shaky period but to let the enemy raid you after less than a minute is not good enough in a derby, or any other match for that matter. And if the start had been bad then the ending was equally gruesome, Touré scoring a magnificent goal to secure an easy 3-0 win.