Neil Humphreys: It's all over for Man City
Our columnist lists the reasons for the Citizens' downfall
I'm calling it. Time of death of Manchester City's title challenge was the moment the full-time whistle went in the derby.
Of course, it's still only Dec 9 and idealistic souls will frantically feel for a pulse in the coming weeks.
But Pep Guardiola's men are beyond saving.
Here are the slightly depressing reasons why…
1) FROM GAP TO A CHASM
In football circles, there are two ways to spot the most boring person in the room.
He's the one who kicks off every sentence with either "the ball is round" or "it's still mathematically possible…"
So for the benefit of the tedious among us, yes, a 14-point gap in December, between major rivals, is obviously surmountable. But history and common sense suggest otherwise.
It's never been done. In the history of English top-flight football, no team have ever clawed back a 14-point deficit and ended up on an open-top bus parade.
Intriguingly, Guardiola's wizards have dominated the history-making business for two years. Last season, they conjured a 14-game surge that powered them past the Reds to pinch the title by a solitary point.
Recent history teases a dramatic comeback, but current form indicates otherwise, for the following factors …
2) NO DEFENCE FOR THAT DEFENCE
Guardiola isn't the Messiah, but he was a muddled boy in the transfer market.
Aymeric Laporte's long-term knee injury couldn't be anticipated, but Vincent Kompany's move to Anderlecht should have been.
As the festive season approaches, the ghosts of centre-backs past haunt the Etihad.
There's the ghoulish spectre of Laporte, clutching his knee and screaming in agony.
There's the imperious Kompany dissolving in the distance. And there's the artist formerly known as John Stones.
The consistently inconsistent one was substituted again at the weekend. He was once compared to the late Bobby Moore.
Today, there's more chance of him being compared to the late Dudley Moore.
For younger readers, he was a comedic, slapstick performer on our TV screens. And the other one was Dudley Moore.
When the post-mortem of City's failed domestic campaign begins, the decision not to buy a reliable stopper will become Guardiola's ball and chain. Whatever happens to Liverpool, City will continue to ship goals and drop points until Laporte's return.
The ghosts of centre-backs past are not done haunting Guardiola yet.
3) CITY GOT AN AGEING POPULATION
The problem of a decline at the highest level is its imperceptibility.
Like a decent manager at Arsenal, it's almost impossible to spot.
Decline is measured in milliseconds and millimetres, the kind of microscopic deficiencies that can be concealed in just about every fixture - except against Liverpool and the resurgent Red Devils. Speed killed City in both games.
Swift counter-attacks left Guardiola's back four spinning like punch-drunk skittles. United were two up within half an hour and the scoreline still sold them short.
Fernandinho's 34-year-old legs left him trailing. At 33, David Silva's peerless football intellect couldn't quite compensate for his physical limitations.
Both men are expected to leave. Sergio Aguero, now 31, was missed and may not linger at the Etihad after this season either.
No matter how talented and successful, every squad has a shelf life. Regular replenishment is key, but Benjamin Mendy, Angelino, Oleksandr Zinchenko and even Riyad Mahrez haven't entirely convinced Guardiola.
The City manager may subtly shift his priorities in the New Year …
4) GOODBYE ENGLAND, HELLO EUROPE
In a move that could almost be construed as anti-Brexit, Guardiola may turn his back on England and embrace Europe. He still has that insufferable itch.
Jose Mourinho lifted the Champions League at two different clubs.
Guardiola won only at Barcelona, fuelling that cynical (and unfair) belief that he succeeded with the one glittering club that simply could not fail.
His ageing City squad may lack the legs to sustain a weekly EPL scrap, but he has enough mavericks to prevail in the odd, cerebral contest on the continent.
Interestingly, at a recent awards ceremony, Guardiola joked with Juergen Klopp that the two managers should swop trophies this season.
It got a big laugh.
By the time May comes around, Guardiola may end up having the last laugh.
5) CHRISTMAS MIRACLES CAN'T STOP LIVERPOOL
Those dull mathematicians who scribble away at the various fixture permutations are avoiding the bleeding obvious.
A City rise must precipitate a Liverpool fall.
At Bournemouth, the Reds rang in the changes and still squashed the Cherries 3-0.
Opponents may find a flaw in Liverpool's armoury over Christmas.
Just as explorers may find Elvis Presley disguised as Santa Claus over Christmas. It could happen.
But there's more chance of finding Elvis.