Neil Humphreys: Man City find a beauty to their ugliness
The irony must be driving them mad around Old Trafford.
Just as Manchester United are rediscovering the art of winning pretty, Manchester City are revelling in a certain ugliness.
On Sunday, the Red Devils played glorious football. Yesterday morning (Singapore time), their neighbours defeated opponents who were mostly determined not to play any football at all.
City's win against West Ham was rather unattractive, at times even dull, but it might prove more decisive than knocking seven past the likes of Stoke City.
Being beautiful earns admiration. Being ugly, however, earns open-top bus parades.
Pep Guardiola's battlers have discovered a knack of combining the two as they blur the line between artist and automaton.
In recent weeks, Southampton, Huddersfield and now West Ham all threw bodies behind the ball against City and hoped for the best.
The Hammers built a wall so high, wide and resolute that it was a wonder that Jon Snow didn't pop up to check for white walkers.
Instead, West Ham encountered blue runners. City refused to wilt, fall back or resort to interminable long-ball tactics.
Guardiola doesn't so much have a Plan B as he does a Plan P. Patience has become City's biggest virtue, a kind of defiant perseverance not witnessed on a regular basis since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and took "Fergie time" with him.
Yesterday, Phil Neville insisted that his six Premier League titles at United between 1996 and 2003 owed more to self-belief than sporting brilliance.
Tenacity always trumped talent, game after game, season after season, until it became a certainty that United would prevail - a belief often held by their opponents.
Fergie Time's greatest strength wasn't the positive impact it had on the Red Devils, but the uncertainty that spread through the teams they were playing.
United always found a way. United always mustered one last attack. United always conjured one final chance. And United always prevailed.
United's opponents believed that then and City's opponents believe that now.
They've won three straight EPL games in the last seven minutes of the game.
Despite the Hammers' defensive resilience, Adrian's brilliance in goal and even Guardiola probably getting his initial line-up wrong, no one panicked and no long balls were pumped aimlessly into the box.
CITY READY FOR ALL TACTICS
West Ham took a shock lead through Angelo Ogbonna. Nicolas Otamendi equalised with minimal fuss.
Patient and intuitive, City's forward line eventually proved that defenders stationed on their own six-yard line are susceptible to a whipped ball played behind them.
So Kevin de Bruyne found the right pass. David Silva found the back of the net and order was restored without anyone hitting a panic button. This is obviously worrying for City's title rivals.
When decent counter-attacking sides try to match strategies, they are often embarrassed (Arsenal, Liverpool). When below-average sides turn up for target practice, they are humiliated (Crystal Palace, Stoke, Watford).
And now, when the parked buses arrive with a well-drilled defence, nine men behind the ball and a reluctance to step across the halfway line, City know they will pick them off in the end (Southampton, Huddersfield, West Ham.)
Once Guardiola took stock of David Moyes' tactical plan, the City manager made a substitution at half-time.
He essentially went with a 2-4-4 and waited for the inevitable comeback.
And there was indeed a sense of inevitability.
Even with Fernandinho and Vincent Kompany dropped to the bench to avoid picking up another yellow card and a suspension, City never looked like losing.
All of which leaves Jose Mourinho with a bit of a dilemma. Ahead of the Manchester Derby, the United manager may find himself stuck between two schools of thought.
His fast, exhilarating counter-attacking against Arsenal worked with Paul Pogba providing support at both ends, but the Frenchman is suspended for the City game.
Mourinho now has the excuse of reverting to type. He could conceivably bring back the parked buses and hope for the best at Old Trafford.
But City have demonstrated in their last three games that they're willing to wait until either a defensive weakness reveals itself or they simply wear out the opposition. They do not falter.
Raheem Sterling's winner against Southampton came in the 96th minute. A goal that was patient in its build-up and exquisite in its execution.
Guardiola's side are dogged when chasing a late victory, but never desperate. It's almost as if he's pinched Ferguson's watch.
Fergie Time has returned to the right town, but the wrong club.
City's ability to beat opponents was already scary. But their unswerving belief that they can beat the clock makes them truly terrifying.