The Manchester derby has only just reached half-time, and yet United’s Premier League winning streak looks all but over following a torrid 45 minutes.
Two blocks either side of a David de Gea save kept City from making it 1-0 inside the opening three minutes and the early stages of the match suggested that United might have a lot of defending to do on a sunny afternoon.
United attempted to press in a 4-2-3-1 shape in the middle third, matching up to City’s 4-3-3 to go man-for-man in midfield.
But the Sky Blues’ dominance in possession often forced the Red Devils into two banks of four as they looked to limit space around their area.
Unfortunately Phil Foden’s clever run found space aplenty in the box just seven minutes in to put City ahead.
“Easy to read” was Gary Neville’s assessment of United’s counterattacking attempts and it would be difficult to argue with him, with several rushed passes forward simply gifting the opposition with possession.
Conversely, Jack Grealish perhaps surprised the United defence with his willingness to run in behind on the left flank – the Englishman usually opts to come short and ask for the ball to feet.
His newfound directness resulted in a number of fouls that gave Guardiola’s side a couple of dangerous of set piece opportunities – not to mention an early booking for Diogo Dalot.
United took 15 minutes to register a shot on target, although Christian Eriksen’s scuffed shot did little to trouble Ederson in goal.
The response to that solitary chance was another mazy Grealish run resulting in yet another foul – this time in an ideal shooting position for Ilkay Gundogan, who struck the post.
United looked set to be the architects of their own demise, with a litany of stray passes from the midfielders – Scott McTominay in particular – creating chances for the neighbours.
City often took control of those misplaced passes and sprayed balls out to the flanks to pressure Ten Hag’s fullbacks, both of whom were booked inside 24 minutes.
With half an hour gone, there did not seem to be much hope of a United goal, with a rare spell of possession in the final third leading to a far-post cross from summer signing Antony.
The Brazilian appeared baffled by the fact that there was nobody there.
United’s woes were compounded immediately afterwards, with Raphael Varane needing treatment after seemingly suffering an ankle injury during a ruthless, ricochet-laden City attack, which led to a corner.
De Bruyne’s corner was swung into the six-yard box, where Erling Haaland – marked by Christian Eriksen for reasons unknown – simply moved through United’s defenders to nod in the cross, making it 2-0.
He was at the back post to make it 3-0 about two minutes later, sticking out a leg to guide De Bruyne’s pinpoint cross past De Gea.
“An absolute doing,” said Gary Neville after the third concession.
A second goal for Foden after a City breakaway compounded that statement as Haaland turned provider to make it 4-0.
For the second time this season, United find themselves facing humiliation by half-time, with this occasion having the additional sting of coming against a local rival.