Manchester United got what they parked their bus for - a point - but their manager saw to it that it was a very poor night for their reputation.
Jose Mourinho has a pre-calculated word for every occasion and late on Thursday night it was a nasty little dig at Sergio Aguero. However theatrically the striker might have fallen after the 84th minute incident with Marouane Fellaini, it was a head butt from the Belgian and yet Mourinho offered us this.
“I saw Aguero in the tunnel and no broken nose no broken head. His face is nice as always,” he said.
It was one of those Mourinho comments which begins so innocuously – “I don’t know because I didn’t watch,” he initially side of the headbutt – and then developed a malice. What do his children think when they see this guff?
Fellaini had actually done Mourinho a favour, creating a controversy which provided cover for the underlying reason why the Manchester derby made United few friends: their utter lack of ambition. The manager is very touchy about the accusation that he runs a defensive, counter-attacking team.
He re-emerged through a side door at Anfield earlier this season to challenge statistics, put to him in a press conference moments earlier, that United's 35 per cent possession in the evening’s was their lowest in the Premier League since Opta's records began in 2003. "It was 42 per cent,” he insisted back then.
United had 31 per cent possession in this game – an extraordinary lack of ambition given how much a win in the fixture means to the club’s supporters. This is a United side which, for all the money spent, has scored one more goal than Bournemouth this season.
Mourinho seemed to come armed with a defence of his side’s lack of desire to possess the ball. “They (City) had more ball and more chances but I must defend the spirit of my players and say they were amazing,” he said of a team who showed no desire to attack beyond the interval.
It was a measure of the football’s meagreness that the talking point was Fellaini’s craven stupidity – and the straight red card for which he can have no complaint. His three-game ban may be lengthened to four, when the player’s refusal to leave the field and abuse of the fourth official are taken into account.
Many will be happy to see the book thrown at him. Fellaini’s dismissal has echoes of his more obvious headbutt on Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross, while playing for Everton in 2012. There are plenty of compilations of his wild moments which make him a danger to opponents. The sight of him, towering over an opponent, forehead to forehead, is a familiar one, contributing to why so many who follow United cannot accept him as one of their own.
The night ended with Mourinho also lamenting his team’s workload. “I think we have 18 more games played than Liverpool, that’s almost half a Premier League. That many more miles in players’ legs. That’s an unfair fight.” From vicious to tedious in five short minutes.