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City win against United exposes gulf in class

AFP – Manchester City once feared a trip to Old Trafford but painted the town blue once more with a 3-0 victory over a demoralised United on Sunday night to reassert their dominance.

A double from Erling Haaland before Phil Foden tapped home a third took Pep Guardiola’s men nine points clear of United just 10 games into the Premier League season.

Not since United last won the league in Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge, in 2012/13, have the Red Devils finished above their local rivals.

That run looks destined to go on for another season, with the clubs worlds apart on and off the pitch.

The travelling City support taunted the home fans with chants expressing the hope that United’s unpopular owners, the Glazer family, would remain for “10 more years”.

Manchester United players react after Manchester City’s Phil Foden scored his side’s third goal. PHOTO: AP

Initial optimism among the United fanbase that the Americans would sell the club they have controlled since 2005 looks likely to have been misplaced, with British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe set to settle for a minority stake after a year of negotiations.

United’s demise under the Glazers has coincided with the rise of City as the dominant force in English football, thanks to backing from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour.

But money is not the only reason for the disparity in the performances of both clubs.

United have outspent City in the transfer market in recent years but have wasted millions in the process.

Despite his side’s struggles to score goals this season, United boss Erik ten Hag left expensive attacking talent in Antony and Mason Mount on the bench on Sunday.

By contrast, City have a slick operation behind the scenes to match their football.

Guardiola cut short his successful managerial spells at Barcelona and Bayern Munich but is now into his eighth season at the Etihad.

“I know what we have done. I didn’t expect it,” he said when asked if he had envisaged the change in fortunes for the clubs after his seventh win at Old Trafford as City boss.

“I said many times we are in the same direction – the chairman, sporting director, manager and the players, we go there. When we lose or things aren’t going well we don’t find blame for someone. We work out what we have to do better and find solutions.”

Manchester City’s head coach Pep Guardiola talks to striker Erling Haaland. PHOTO: AP

Finding solutions for a season that threatens to spiral out of control is now Ten Hag’s job.

The Dutchman enjoyed plenty of plaudits for his first season in charge as he returned United to the Champions League and ended a six-year trophy drought by lifting the League Cup.

However, after another period of heavy investment in the summer transfer window, United have gone backwards at an alarming rate.

A return of five defeats from their opening 10 league games means the club have made their worst start since 1986/87, while they are also in severe danger of failing to make the Champions League knockouts.

Ten Hag’s decision to replace striker Rasmus Hojlund was met with a chorus of boos for the second time this season by the Old Trafford crowd and thousands marched out after Foden’s goal 10 minutes from time.

“It’s different levels,” said former United midfielder Roy Keane. “The United players are just short in every aspect, technically and tactically. It’s a long way back for this team.”

Frustration towards the Glazers has largely shielded Ten Hag from criticism so far.

But questions are beginning to be asked of the former Ajax boss, with United languishing eighth in the table, eight points adrift of the top four.

Catching City already looks an impossible task as Guardiola’s side target another historic landmark.

Fresh from matching United’s crowning glory under Ferguson by winning the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup in the same season, City are now aiming to become the first side to win the English top flight for a fourth consecutive year.