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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

David Silva highlights Manchester City's dominance in derby victory over United

The Spanish midfielder scored City's opener against Manchester United in 3-1 victory at the Etihad Stadium

There have been more spectacular scorelines in Manchester derbies, but while two goals separated the warring halves of England’s footballing capital, the greater reflection of the gap between them comes in the league table.

Manchester City are now 12 points and seven places ahead of Manchester United. If Jose Mourinho embarked on a damage-limitation exercise at the Etihad Stadium, the campaign has shown the gulf. So did much of a match when City played with more ambition and United acted like underdogs.

As it was, Anthony Martial’s penalty, needlessly conceded by Ederson, offered hope of a comeback to rival April’s remarkable response.

Then, as now, United went 2-0 down. This time, however, City recorded a first home derby win under Pep Guardiola.

Two of the goals came from old guard, in David Silva and Sergio Aguero, but it was a day to illustrate how City have advanced in Guardiola’s two-year reign.

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That United, whatever the respective managers say, are out of the title race, prompts questions if they have progressed under Mourinho.

The Portuguese glowered in his technical area during spells when his side were outclassed in predictable patterns of City possession.

A nonchalant chip from Ederson highlighted the way they passed with confidence and assurance. United’s gameplan was an admission they cannot emulate City’s approach on the ball.

It has been a recurring theme in Guardiola and Mourinho’s meetings in Manchester that City have played a different brand of football.

The first chorus of “park the bus, Man United” was being aired when Mourinho’s defensive tactics backfired as they conceded.

While he fielded Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Nemanja Matic as three defensive midfielders, none prevented David Silva from breaking the deadlock.

They had threatened earlier, Bernardo Silva and Fernandinho shooting wide. Then Raheem Sterling picked out Bernardo Silva with a deep cross.

As he pulled the ball back along the edge of the six-yard box, Chris Smalling tugged Aguero. No matter. The ball fell to David Silva, who took one touch before finishing.

Guardiola has a track record of making players more prolific than they were before and Silva, with seven goals already, is on course to beat his personal best of 12 in a season.

It is notable how much more often he materialises within 12 yards of goal. It is also a sign of how much extra responsibility he has assumed in the absence of Kevin de Bruyne although Bernardo Silva, the Belgian’s replacement, again excelled on the major stage.

City were utterly dominant then, but United at least stemmed the bleeding. The goal was the only attempt on target in the first half, though Aguero fired into the side netting.

Superiority was turned into a larger lead soon after the restart, Aguero rifling a shot into the roof of the net after accepting Riyad Mahrez’s pass.

Newly blond, he provided a highlight as he drew level with Wayne Rooney’s Premier League Manchester derby record, scoring his eighth goal in the fixture.

Yet an inheritor of Rooney’s No 10 shirt afforded United hope.

A fit-again Romelu Lukaku came off the bench to make the definition of an immediate impact.

Within a minute of his introduction, he had been brought down by Ederson, who made the rash decision to leave his line.

Martial slotted in the spot kick to score for a fifth consecutive league game. It was United’s first effort on target.

In their defence, they were hindered by the absence of the injured Paul Pogba while Alexis Sanchez was another only deemed fit enough to start on the bench.

Yet a City substitute sealed things, Ilkay Gundogan emerging to spring United’s offside trap, meet Bernardo Silva’s pass and finish.