Manchester City now get the chance to play their hand by playing one of their games in hand.
With an opportunity to move within three points of front-running Chelsea as well as a chance to turn Manchester a shade of blue, City make the short trek to Old Trafford on Tuesday in a bid to complete the double over United.
City (20-3-5) had little trouble keeping pace with Chelsea over the weekend, steamrolling 10-man Fulham 5-0 at the Etihad. Yaya Toure netted the first three goals, including two from the spot, and Fernandinho and Martin Demichelis capped the scoring late as Manchester City also stretched their shutout streak in league play to 418 minutes dating back to Branislav Ivanovic's goal for Chelsea in City's 1-0 home defeat on Feb. 3.
The win kept City six points back of Chelsea as they now play one of the three matches in hand they own over Jose Mourinho's side. City manager Manuel Pellegrini praised his team's effort and was pleased he could substitute key midfielders Toure, David Silva and Samir Nasri ahead of this quick turnaround.
"It was a complete performance because again we kept a clean sheet and that's very important," he told Man City's official website. "We made some changes towards the end of the game, thinking about what we must do Tuesday against Manchester United, but before the match, we were thinking only about this one."
Toure has a team-high 16 goals in league play, six of them match-winners, and is now 5 for 5 from the spot. He likely will continue to be the focal point on offence for City since forward Sergio Aguero - who has 26 goals in 28 matches across all competitions - has already been ruled out for this match due to a hamstring injury suffered in their Champions League exit at Barcelona's hands.
While City still have everything to play for, the red side of Manchester can only look on with envy as United play out the string as a long shot to claim the last Champions League spot. Their disjointed season, though, is currently on the uptick as they reached the round of eight in Europe's top tournament midweek before claiming three points in a 2-0 victory over West Ham on Saturday.
Wayne Rooney, who also will be a well-marked man as he operates this match without injured running mate Robin van Persie, scored a wonder goal from 55 yards as he lobbed Adrian in the seventh minute when he saw the goalkeeper well off his line. The goal evoked memories of David Beckham's similar goal to start the 1996-97 season, and Rooney left no doubt about the match's outcome with his second in the 33rd minute.
''The win on Wednesday night against Olympiakos has given us all a big lift,'' Rooney said. ''You could see today the confidence running through the team, so it's a good victory and we're really pleased with that.''
Rooney has 11 goals in 23 lifetime matches versus Manchester City but has failed to score in his last two appearances at Old Trafford in the derby.
Like City, United's defence have stepped to the forefront of late with back-to-back shutouts and five shutouts in their last seven matches in all play. Still, with David Moyes' team 11 points behind Arsenal for the fourth and final Champions League spot, the only way it appears United will return to there is by winning the current edition.
City rolled to a 4-1 win in the reverse fixture on Sept. 22. Toure scored a backbreaking goal just before intermission to make it 2-0, and Aguero scored two minutes into the second half to complete a brace. Nasri added a fourth before Rooney salvaged some pride for United in the 87th minute.
There hasn't been a blue sweep of Manchester in the Premier League since the 2007-08 season.
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- Manchester City
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- Yaya Toure