Psychological edge to the noisy neighbours
Visitors put up courageous display to thwart a still underperforming United
The bitterness simmered just at the below the surface and Old Trafford was anticipating something exceptional in the 170th Manchester derby.
Man United went into the match fourth in Premier League, two points behind second-placed City, who so far this season look like title winners again.
Alas, the magic never came.
The two star-studded teams with starting line-ups worth a combined total of about £520 million ($1.11 billion) couldn't produce a goal yesterday.
The city rivals picked up a point apiece, but it was Man City who clinched psychological victory.
With a shorter injury list and home advantage, the onus was on United to strike a heavy blow.
It was yet another indication of how drastically the football landscape in Manchester has changed.
It wasn't that long ago that they were referred to as the "noisy neighbours" by Sir Alex Ferguson.
Now, City are widely accepted as the Premiership benchmark, the team to finish above in the standings for those with intentions of winning the English title.
United manager Louis van Gaal, surprisingly, conceded that City were the favourites for this game, and that was quite a telling remark considering the circumstances.
When David Moyes made the comment that City were "at the sort of level we are aspiring to", it nearly caused a coronary blockage in every other United fan.
Yesterday, City were not even close to that level.
Shorn of their two best players through injuries, they were nowhere near their fluid best, especially in the attacking third.
They didn't have Sergio Aguero's cutting edge (he has scored eight goals in eight Manchester derbies in all competitions) or David Silva's cunning to rely on.
Considering this, City were not doing a bad job at all.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini's City masterpiece is usually that of the silky variety, but on this day, he did away with the intricacies and went for good old-fashioned pace and directness.
From the flanks, they were relying on Kevin de Bruyne and Raheem Sterling to provide the width with their blinding speed.
Through the middle, Yaya Toure supplied the power and purpose, as Wilfried Bony tried to make a nuisance of himself in the penalty box with his physical presence.
In the end, they lacked the cutting edge up front to execute a successful smash-and-grab mission.
But they had the cohesion to repel whatever United could throw at them.
There were scares, though.
Like the 51st-minute incident in City's penalty box where Sterling appeared to bundle over Ander Herrera from behind, but the referee pointed to the corner flag, instead.
United substitute Jesse Lingard had an effort against the crossbar late on.
A minute from time, City's Joe Hart, on his way to becoming the fourth goalkeeper to clock 100 Premiership clean sheets with one club, pulled off a superb save from defender Chris Smalling,
Van Gaal will rue the missed opportunity and see this as three points dropped.
Pellegrini will look back and see this as a brilliant performance in which his players did everything he could have asked of them.
There's no doubt over who walked away the happier man.