When Paul Pogba wasn’t named in Sunday’s matchday squad, some Manchester United fans likely would have feared the worst.

Manchester City went on to conclude a 3-1 win with an Ilkay Gundogan goal preceded by 44 passes, and the comfort in the move reflected the ease the home side felt for much of the derby. It could have been worse for United – they did threaten to wring a point from City’s grasp when Anthony Martial netted a penalty after 58 minutes – but their menace was all too brief.

Before the spot kick, City had taken control of the match through a short-range smash from David Silva and Sergio Aguero’s impeccable exchange with Riyad Mahrez before he bludgeoned the ball into the roof of the net.

Here are three takeaways from City’s victory over their Cottonopolis rivals:

United need to be startled into action – again

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Only Fulham, Cardiff City, and Crystal Palace – positioned 20th, 18th and 16th, respectively – have conceded first in more Premier League matches than Manchester United this season, so it’s proof of the battling qualities of Jose Mourinho’s players that they have just one fewer point than the three sides’ collective tally.

It is shameful for a club of United’s traditions, however, that it takes going behind to rouse them into some kind of attacking intent. It’s not going to come from their manager, who by selecting Nemanja Matic, out-of-sorts Ander Herrera, and Marouane Fellaini showed, once again, United were set up inhibit rather than exhibit. Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, and Juan Mata began the day on the substitutes’ bench.

The only genuine reminder of the breathless forward forays of old for the away contingent was the presence of Sir Alex Ferguson in the Colin Bell Stand.

If it wasn’t for vice chairman Ed Woodward serving as a lightning rod for supporters’ discontent due to his Glazer family alliances and questionable transfer business, Mourinho’s position would be a lot more precarious.

Rivals’ attacking movement poles apart

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If there was an area of City’s defense that United should’ve looked to prey upon at the Etihad Stadium, it was behind the upfield jaunts of Benjamin Mendy. The French full-back was exposed after 38 minutes when Marcus Rashford ran onto the ball in this channel, dragging Aymeric Laporte into a part of the pitch where he looked vulnerable in a Champions League match at Hoffenheim last month.

City’s backline was scrambled. United should have taken advantage.

The former Fletcher Moss Rangers youth ran into a thicket of blue shirts and eventually bobbled the ball for a Manchester City throw-in. Rashford’s expression – tugging at his shirt and looking wearily across the edge of City’s defensive third – was one of a player who was given scant assistance by others in red shirts.

The gulf in United’s struggles when compared with Manchester City’s organization in attack was huge. When one of City’s midfielders lost a duel, right-back Kyle Walker would be mopping up and recycling possession from an inverted role. When a United player hacked or headed the ball away from the left flank, Mendy always seemed to be gobbling up the scraps. David Silva was constantly finding his preferred pockets on the edge of the 18-yard box, counting the second-most touches of all 28 players who appeared at the Etihad.

Fernandinho’s finesse often ignored

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Fernandinho is regularly described as fulfilling a water-carrying role in midfield, keeping Manchester City ticking by unfussily moving the ball between defense and attack.

But he’s bigger than that for Guardiola.

Within the first four minutes, the veteran Brazilian had released the superb Bernardo Silva and David Silva with passes of the crispness and pace of Connor McDavid releasing an ice hockey puck. He was at it again 10 minutes after the restart, when his forensic ball released Raheem Sterling. The tireless forward, who inked fresh terms with the club on Friday, should’ve scored.

Fernandinho touched the more ball times than anyone on the pitch (102 times) and assiduously stuck to his defensive tasks with two tackles, a team-high four clearances, and game-high three interceptions.

City were initially keen on Fred in January (the former Shakhtar Donetsk man who deepened a groove on United’s bench during the derby), but when that interest cooled there was a two-way battle with Chelsea for Jorginho which Guardiola’s side ultimately lost.

The longer Fernandinho continues to dominate the middle of the park, the more of a long-term headache replacing the 33-year-old becomes for City.

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