Tottenham Hotspur
11:45 AM UTC
Leg 2Aggregate: 0 - 1
Game Details
 By David Mooney

Derby dominance over Man United shows Pep Guardiola effect in full flow

"Park the bus, park the bus, Man United," the away end sang during Manchester City's 2-1 victory at Old Trafford on Sunday. At the time, the score was 0-0 and it was the visitors who had been in control, without really testing David De Gea in the Manchester United goal.

But still, this was a show of supreme confidence from the supporters. City had seen the majority of the ball, but it was still anyone's game. To the fans, though, the victory was only a matter of time because of the early patterns of play -- and they'd turn out to be right.

Why shouldn't supporters be confident? At kick off, their team had an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League. By full time, they'd have opened up a gap of 11 points. If that's not a time when they can feel confident their side will roll over anyone in front of them, when is?

A record-breaking 14th consecutive top flight win was soon to follow. The irony was that City exploited two set pieces to get their goals. It was them who many thought susceptible to high balls rather than United, leaving Jose Mourinho ruing the "disgraceful" goals. Not that City fans cared how they went in.

The show of confidence, bordering on arrogance, from the Old Trafford away section on Sunday was built on what Pep Guardiola has achieved at City since August 2016. At times last season it may have looked like the team were at breaking point, as defensive errors and missed chances led to humiliating defeats. It certainly tested the manager's resolve but the more he was questioned, the more he dug his heels in to defend his beliefs.

City are now reaping the rewards. They weren't even close to their best in Sunday's Manchester derby, yet they were still comfortably miles ahead of their rivals. The team looks able to deal with whatever is thrown at them, and that's why supporters weren't too nervy about tempting fate with their chants while the game was still in the balance.

The evidence of the season so far is that City find a way to win however teams try to stop them. It's not just the results that have given the fans belief, but the manner of them -- regular last-minute winners, a complete commitment to the pass-and-move style that has run opponents ragged, and decision-making that sees most counter-attacks end with two players who could tap the ball home.

The Manchester derby showcased just how far City have developed under Guardiola. The manager didn't change his approach to the game in the slightest, while his opposite number tied himself in knots trying to work out how to prevent the league leaders running riot. City's identity was as clear as ever; United's was a complete mystery beyond trying to turn the game into a gritty affair.

Manchester City set a Premier League record by winning 16 consecutive games.
Manchester City moved 11 points clear at the top of the table following victory at Manchester United.

It makes Mourinho's postmatch comments about how City had been lucky all season about as laughable as Ander Herrera's desperate attempts to cheat his way to an equaliser with a belly-flop in the penalty area in the second half. For all of the prematch hype around his comments about Guardiola's men practising the dark arts, the travelling fans will be keen to note it was United who were forced to resort to that in a bid to get a point.

Of course, an 11-point lead at the top of the table allows supporters to trust in the team. Big defeats and inept displays at Leicester and Everton last season may have tempted the fans to briefly consider that maybe the Premier League was a step too far for their new boss.

But they can now see the Guardiola method in action. It's producing football to a standard they've never witnessed before and it's breaking records on a weekly basis.

Even when Roberto Mancini's team were blitzing their opponents at the beginning of 2011-12 or when Manuel Pellegrini's side were scoring for fun in the winter months of 2013-14, the football was never as mouth-watering as it is now.

City's scoring has slowed down in recent weeks, but that's not stopped them extending their dominance of the Premier League over that time. They haven't changed how they attempt to score whether it's the opening minute or closing seconds and the number of times it has worked is giving the fans real encouragement that this season could be like none other they've ever seen.

It already has been extraordinary, but the prospect of it getting better still is supremely exciting.

Fans could have watched their team lose at Old Trafford on Sunday and they'd have still poked fun at United's style -- or lack of it. But the win and the lead at the top of the Premier League means life couldn't be better for City fans right now.

Who can blame them for enjoying it?

David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney


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