It felt like a watershed moment. Manchester City FC's biggest win at Old Trafford since 1926 seemed ripe for interpretations stressing a power shift to the sky blue half of the city, but Roberto Mancini quickly refused to look too deeply into his side's astonishing victory against Manchester United FC.
The 6-1 triumph was City's most emphatic against their neighbours since a 5-1 home win in September 1989, a memorable Maine Road encounter that nonetheless had nothing like the same significance. While both teams went on to finish that season 31 points behind champions Liverpool FC, this term they share clear designs on the title. And, having moved five points clear of United at the summit, City are now excellently placed to bid for their first championship crown since 1967/68.
"I'm satisfied because we beat United away," said Mancini, keen for his charges to keep their feet on the ground. "I don't think there are a lot of teams that can win here. This is important for our squad and I am happy for the three points, but in the end it is three points – we don't take six points.
"United are still one yard above us and we can only change this if we win the title. After that, it might be different, but until then United are better than us. I still have big respect for United and for their squad. There are still four or five teams who can win the title and the season is long."
The mood in the United camp was unmistakeably coloured by the scoreline, however, despite the hosts having had the upper hand until Mario Balotelli's 22nd-minute opener. "I can't believe it," said United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, whose team were reduced to ten men when Jonny Evans saw red early in the second half. "It's the worst result in my history, ever. Even as a player, I don't think I ever lost 6-1. It's an incredible disappointment."
The result was given gloss by a late double for substitute Edin Džeko, either side of a David Silva strike, and Sir Alex feels his players paid the price for believing the comeback was on after Darren Fletcher had made it 3-1 with nine minutes to go. "Jonny Evans' sending-off was a killer for us," he explained. "At ten men, we kept attacking; it was crazy football and ended up being an embarrassment. We should have just said: 'We've had our day.'"
Despite his obvious anguish, the two-time UEFA Champions League winner is backing his charges to prove their worth in the coming months. "We'll come back," he said. "We usually get the show on the road in the second half of the season and that will have to be the case. We will react, no question about that. It's a perfect result for us to react to because there is a lot of embarrassment in the dressing room and that will have an impact."
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