Man City's 3-1 win against Man United provides reality check for Jim Ratcliffe

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Good luck trying to knock Manchester City off its perch.

With new investment and renewed hope, Manchester United fans have been encouraged to believe the good times will return. That great revival felt as far away as ever after a humbling 3-1 loss to City in the Premier League, which could have been even worse Sunday if not for a spectacular miss from Erling Haaland and a series of saves from United goalkeeper Andre Onana.

“This team is legendary,” City manager Pep Guardiola said afterward.

The same cannot be said for United after a 16th defeat in all competitions this season and its 11th loss in the league. The latest setback delivered another blow to Erik ten Hag's hopes of securing Champions League qualification, with his sixth-place team 11 points off fourth-place Aston Villa.

City, meanwhile, marches on in its three-pronged defense of the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.

“Don’t forget — City, at this moment, is the best team in the world,” Ten Hag said.

Such words are likely to offer little comfort to United fans after another defeat to its cross-city rival. The 192nd Manchester derby is also likely to have been a chastening experience for Jim Ratcliffe, who recently bought a 27.7% stake in the club and vowed to end City's domestic dominance.

Despite leading at halftime through a stunning goal from Marcus Rashford, United had no response when Phil Foden struck twice in the second half and Haaland made amends for an earlier miss from point blank range to seal the win.

This had been a chance to make an early statement under the regime of British billionaire Ratcliffe whose investment has secured him control of the club's soccer operations.

Instead, rather than denting City's pursuit of a record fourth-straight Premier League title, United only served to boost City's morale ahead of next week's top-of-the-table clash at leader Liverpool, which beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 on Saturday to stay out in front.

“It is about us. We can’t control what Liverpool or Arsenal, Aston Villa or other contenders do, it is about us," Guardiola said. "Will we do it? I don’t know. We have today more points at this stage than last season. The difference is Liverpool have I don’t know how many more points than this stage last season. When the opponent is behaving like this, what can I say, congratulations so far. We will continue to try game by game.”

Ten Hag has a job on his hands to try to salvage the season after losing for a fifth time in six games against City since being hired by United in 2022.

He was charged with the responsibility of rebuilding a United team which has been in decline since former manager Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, but despite an encouraging first year in charge, he has endured a troubled second season.

The FA Cup is United's only realistic chance of silverware, while Champions League qualification is looking increasingly unlikely.

“This year we are really progressing and you have to get some points back. Everyone can beat everyone and things can quickly turn around,” Ten Hag said. “We have to go into another final and we have to try and get closer to them.”

There are expected to be a number of changes under Ratcliffe, with Newcastle sporting director Dan Ashworth expected to be brought in, while former City executive Omar Berrada has been hired as CEO.

There has been no indication from United that Ten Hag's position is under threat, but Ratcliffe has made his ambitions clear.

“Every time you don’t win a game it is a damage at this club,” United captain Bruno Fernandes said. “We know what this club demands and we want to win the games we are involved in. We didn’t get the three points today but there’s still a long way to go."

BOURNEMOUTH BOOST

Goals from Justin Kluivert and Antoine Semenyo secured Bournemouth its first win in the league in 2024 by beating Burnley 2-0 at Turf Moor.

Burnley, meanwhile, is still waiting for a win of any description since the turn of the year and a latest loss pushed Vincent Kompany's team closer to relegation.

Bournemouth hadn't won since beating Tottenham on New Year's Eve and moved 11 points clear of the relegation zone.

Defeat extended Burnley's winless from to 10 games in all competitions and left it 11 points adrift of safety.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

James Robson, The Associated Press