Mediocre Manchester - City and United
No one saw this coming.
Few expected a masterpiece, but it's hard to recall a Manchester Derby dipped so thoroughly in mediocrity.
The two recent giants of English football, sharing the last four Premier League titles between them, were reduced to this - a side with a rickety defence against a side struggling to beat 10 men with a rickety defence.
The two halves of Manchester once formed an impenetrable whole. Now they veer between inconsistent and insipid.
City are already six points behind Chelsea. Meanwhile, United are plodding through their worst start to a season since 1986, a year of crushing disappointment, a year that led to Ron Atkinson's sacking.
Sir Alex Ferguson never sank this low, nor did David Moyes.
Louis van Gaal has a fine track record in guiding clubs into unchartered territory, but not like this.
United are 10th in the table and slipping towards irrelevance before the Halloween decorations are even taken down. The horror show remains at Old Trafford.
Chris Smalling's red card stole the focus, but the centre back's idiocy revealed the lack of composure and intelligence required in a Manchester United defence.
It is frankly inconceivable to think of Rio Ferdinand, Jaap Stam or even Steve Bruce being found guilty of such school playground rashness.
But Smalling started because there was no better option, highlighting the recklessness in allowing Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra to all leave at the same time.
Marcos Rojo's injury was unfortunate, but United's back four ended up being a cross between Dad's Army and a kindergarten class with Michael Carrick, Antonio Valencia, Paddy McNair and Luke Shaw.
Shaw and McNair are both 19. Van Gaal initially viewed Shaw as a long-term prospect, while McNair has been lifted from the youth academy and dropped into the Premier League.
United have long championed a bold youth policy, but it was usually a meritocracy. McNair's promotion reeks of desperation.
Under the circumstances, the patched-up back four acquitted themselves admirably, considering City's numerical advantage and the fact that Carrick hadn't featured since May.
United gave a spirited performance, but it was the kind of gusty, frenzied last stand typically associated with relegation scrappers.
That's not to denigrate the Red Devils' determination. It's just an acknowledgement of how far the club have fallen.
United are now measured by a different yardstick. Any scraps of comfort are gratefully accepted. They only lost 1-0 to a maddeningly inconsistent side.
In some respects, City have the greater problems.
Even allowing for David de Gea's reliability between the sticks, Manuel Pellegrini's men made such heavy weather of beating wounded opponents.
Momentum has deserted the blue half of Manchester. Without David Silva, City are more mechanical than maverick.
Stevan Jovetic did not improve his selection chances. Yaya Toure is still looking for a reliable midfield partner. Jesus Navas happens to be a World Cup winner but rarely looks like one in a City jersey and the back four remains unsettled.
With champions like this, who needs a title race?
Jose Mourinho could conceivably unwrap the Premier League trophy on Christmas morning, leaving the rest of the season to be rebranded as an anti-climatic race for the other three Champions League spots.
City's second album syndrome is becoming a broken record that even their supporters must be tired of hearing. Flopping after the first championship win was one thing; to do it a second time would suggest an inherent psychological flaw.
Compared to their fellow domestic champions across Europe's major leagues, City's lack of creative enterprise is exasperating.
The last thing the Premier League needs now is a mundane one-horse race. But that's the only conceivable outcome, if the Manchester Derby was any indication.
Its typically English robustness and frantic pace should not be confused with rare quality.
Both Manchester sides have not only fallen behind their European rivals, they have also fallen behind Chelsea.
The derby was billed as a spleen-rupturing blockbuster. In reality, it felt a lot like a battle between also-rans.
"It is important to win. Chelsea are doing very well and they keep winning but we have to go on and I’m sure they will drop some points."
— Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero