Manchester City took a big step towards retaining the Premier League title with a 2-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford on Wednesday sending them back to the top of the table.
City have 89 points, one more than rivals Liverpool, with both teams having three games to play — and none of them against top six opponents.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side remain in sixth place with 64 points, outside the Champions League qualification slots as the early promise of the Norwegian’s reign dissipates.
United are surely keen to get this season over with and begin the rebuilding they need — they have now lost seven games out of their last nine in all competitions and were outclassed after the break by City’s composed, intelligent passing and movement.
Second-half goals from Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane ensured a comfortable win for City, who have now won 11 straight league games.
The form book suggests City should win the title, much to the frustration of Liverpool who have lost just once this season.
However, City captain Vincent Kompany was not getting carried away.
“Nothing is played out yet. Burnley is a difficult away game next and there is plenty to play for, both for us and Liverpool. We will deal with the other games in the next days,” said the Belgian.
“We need three wins. We cannot expect the opponent to drop points.”
United, smarting from their 4-0 hammering at Everton on Sunday, at least played with aggression and energy in the scoreless first half but created little beyond an optimistic long-range effort from Marcus Rashford.
City were slow to find top gear although the irrepressible Silva tested David De Gea with a thundering drive and Raheem Sterling shot straight at the Spanish keeper after dribbling his way to space inside the box.
Guardiola was forced to adjust his lineup six minutes after the interval when Brazilian holding midfielder Fernandinho went off injured and Sane was introduced.
But it was no surprise that Portuguese winger Bernardo Silva was the man who broke through.
He picked the ball up on the right flank and cut inside on to his left foot, surprising De Gea with a low drive that sneaked in the bottom corner in the 54th minute.
United’s night was summed up when some rare shaky defending from City saw the ball loop towards the back post but Jesse Lingard mis-kicked completely and the opportunity had gone.
City then doubled their lead — Fred giving the ball away in midfield, Sterling breaking forward before feeding Sane on the left with the German’s powerful drive flying in off the outstretched leg of De Gea, who probably should have done better.
“There is a difference in quality. That is why they are top and we are where we are,” said Solskjaer.
“They have set the standard. Living in Manchester we cannot be happy with that. It is up to us to close that gap and overtake them,” he said.