The Manchester derby ended in a comfortable victory for City – their first for thirteen years.
Goals from Nicolas Anelka and two from Shaun Goater ensured that City ran out 3-1 victors in the last league derby to be played at Maine Road.
United were disapponting and were outplayed for long periods of the game. However, all three City goals were gifted to them by United mistakes.
In a combative midfield, Danny Tiatto and Mark Vivien-Foe dominated against Juan Veron and Phil Neville.
Alex Ferguson was furious with the nature of the defeat.
“We have under-achieved. We’re not happy, the players got a rollicking and quite rightly so”, he said afterwards.
He argued his players had not shown enough passion for the occasion: “I am disappointed for the fans, I wonder if I should have let them into the dressing room and let the players hear what they had to say.”
The defeat leaves United eight points adrift of league leaders, Liverpool, despite the Anfield club suffering their first Premiership defeat of the season at Middlesbrough, following an uncharacteristic mistake by keeper Jerzy Dudek.
The keeper dropped the ball at the feet of Gareth Southgate to score the only goal of the game. Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier was unconcerned by the defeat.
“This is our second defeat in 30 league games. We knew at some stage we had to lose, and it’s done.”
The defeat enabled second placed Arsenal to close the gap at the top to a single point, following their 1-0 victory over Newcastle. It was their second consecutive victory following a run of two league defeats in succession.
Coach Arsene Wenger warned: “Two weeks ago our confidence was low and it is difficult to bounce back but we are doing it.”
Chelsea moved into third place with a comfortable 3-0 win over newly promoted Birmingham City. Eidur Gudjohnson scored two with the outstanding Gianfranco Zola contributing the other.
However, despite their impressiveform, coach Claudio Ranieri was keen to downplay their title chances.
“Our target is to be in the top four places at the end of the season. It’s important that we continue to work hard”, he said.
Surprise package Everton moved into fourth place with their fourth successive victory, Tomas Radzinski scoring the only goal of the game against struggling Charlton.
Manager Dave Moyles is happy with the progress the club has made since he joined last season.
“We are rebuilding and moving in the right direction and we just need to keep it even and not get too carried away”, he said.
At the other end of the table, ten-man Bolton scored a last minute equaliser against fellow strugglers West Bromwich Albion. The draw means both clubs remain rooted to the bottom of the league.
Sunderland moved out of the bottom three following their 2-0 victory over Tottenham. Kevin Phillips opened the scoring with his first goal in six months, before Tore-Andre Flo made sure of the points a minute later.
West Ham dropped into the bottom three following their 4-3 home defeat by Leeds United. Trailing 4-1 at half-time, West Ham staged a second half come back, but are still looking for their first home league victory of the season.
The defeat increases the pressure on beleaguered manager Glen Roeder, who has nonetheless vowed to carryon.
“I don’t live in fear, when you are in the bottom five you are in the spotlight, but I am not fearful of tomorrow. I am sure the board will talk to me as and when they are ready”, he said.