The Mirror‘s Oliver Holt is a man I rarely agree with. Emily Bishop’s son tends to be more critical of United and Sir Alex Ferguson than is ever necesary, but following our derby day victory, it would be hard to find fault with our performance. Even with ten men we were the better team, leading Holt to force City to face a few home truths.

Manchester United came to Eastlands yesterday as dream-testers for City fans who believe the day when they emerge from their neighbour’s shadow is almost upon us. But if the blue half of Manchester hoped this match would provide compelling evidence City are about to hurl United off the cliff-top, they were bitterly disappointed.

What United did yesterday amounts to this: they put their local rivals in their place and gave their owners in Abu Dhabi something called a reality check.

Next up is the other type of cheque because if City are going to get close to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side, Sheikh Mansour will have to plunge his hands deep into his cavernous pockets for several transfer windows to come.

Perhaps City’s embarrassment of Arsenal persuaded their followers they were already well on the way to cracking the big four. Perhaps all the talk of imminent and outrageously big spending convinced them their deliverance from an existence spent gazing at United’s triumphs was all but assured.

In that context, perhaps yesterday did City boss Mark Hughes a favour as it showed beyond doubt there is still a yawning chasm. United were superior in every department. Michael Carrick was outstanding in central midfield and Nemanja Vidic dominated Benjani so completely he hardly got a kick.

In attack, Wayne Rooney gave a performance not only of great invention and unrelenting effort but of commendable maturity.

When Cristiano Ronaldo was sent-off, United’s match-winner did not hurl abuse at the referee or rage at the heavens. Instead, he sprinted straight to the United technical area and demanded instructions on how best to deal with the setback.

City had no answer. It was not the best day to view them, admittedly. They returned from their UEFACup win at Schalke 04 in the early hours of Friday and looked tired and listless.

City fans are living in a fool’s paradise if they think they are on the verge of challenging for top honours. They need to recruit world-class performers in almost every area. Of this side Robinho, Vincent Kompany, Wright-Phillips and perhaps Stephen Ireland might have a part to play in the great leap forward.

That does not mean the future is not bright for City. They have in Hughes (left) an outstanding manager who knows what it takes to move from alsorans to champions. “It’s no disgrace to lose to a team like United,” he said.




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