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Shifting expectations pt II

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Shaun Botterill

I'm conscious that this may be fast becoming an occasional series but I thought it worth following up on the piece I posted ahead of the derby.

The thrust of the post was that anything other than a City win over United would be a surprise; a defeat a shock, such has been the shift in expectations between the two sides in the past couple of seasons.

I think we are all more or less in agreement that despite the slender looking scoreline and at times nervy finish from City that they were the better team, deserved of the points and on another day - or with another referee - would have run out far more comfortable winners than they did.

The press reaction to the game has largely focused on United. Principally because of where the defeat left them (their worse start since 1986/87 which ushered in the Ferguson-era), but also the nature of it (the Smalling-shambles and that they came away with little to hang their hats on). From City's perspective the game told us very little. They were neither 'back' nor mired in 'turmoil': it was a solid, if unspectacular performance, one devoid of headlines.

But it was a result that was significant from City's perspective as it tightened their stranglehold over United, a point largely ignored. Step forward though Paul Hayward.

His post match video in The Telegraph ran with the strapline 'Manchester City now run these derby games'. The record books show that this was City's fourth win in succession (unparalleled in City's modern era) and their fifth in six games.

Not quite the choke hold United had over City in the 1990's but the playing field was far more lopsided between the two back then, but significant nonetheless. The reality is fast becoming that for as well as United may play in the derby it would also take a drop off in performance from City for them to emerge victorious - very much that City have the control, as Hayward says, a remarkable turnaround in fortunes from the start of this decade and it is hard to envisage a point at the moment where City wouldn't enter a derby as the firm favourites.

Shifting expectations indeed.