While once United would swat their rivals aside, the resurgence of City means any victory by Sir Alex Ferguson's side can now by accompanied by gloating.
So it was on Thursday. While City boss Roberto Mancini was claiming his side more than matched United in Wednesday's semi-final second leg at Old Trafford, Ferguson boasted that United could have put 'six or seven' past their rivals before Wayne Rooney's injury-time goal clinched a 4-3 aggregate win and sent the holders back to Wembley.
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And United's powerhouse midfielder Darren Fletcher reminded Mancini of his boast that he would rip down the banner that flies at Old Trafford mocking City's three decades without a trophy.
Ferguson couldn't resist a dig at former United striker Carlos Tevez, who was caught up in a spat with Gary Neville in the first leg, by insisting the Argentine was practically anonymous on his return to Old Trafford until he pulled a goal back for City 14 minutes from time.
It took Tevez's tally over the two legs to three, but Ferguson said: 'We never saw Carlos until he's hit his goal in. Former players have come and scored here many times. But we were in complete control.
'We could have scored six or seven goals. We missed a lot of chances and apart from Edwin van der Sar's fantastic save (from Micah Richards) just after half time we were in control of the game.'
Squaring up: Micah Richards and Darren Fletcher
Fletcher claimed United rose above the chaos to show they can handle the big occasion as they prepare for another stern test at Arsenal on Sunday.
And after Mancini had vowed to tear down the banner in the Stretford End deriding City's 34-year wait for a major trophy, Fletcher could not resist a dig at the Italian. 'They can keep the banner up,' he said. 'It's all part of the banter between the two clubs but it's right because we deserved to go through.
'A lot was said from the first leg but it's a semi-final against your local rivals to get to Wembley. It was always going to be a massive match, and in those games this team rises to the occasion. You look around and see what quality you have and you realise there's no one you'd rather have with you out on the pitch. It's about remembering what your job is and not freezing.
'That's what it's about at Manchester United - you've got a semi-final in midweek and then you've got to win at the weekend away to Arsenal.'
Wednesday night's match was scarred by a series of missile attacks, including coins and a bottle of cider, by United fans on Craig Bellamy. However, United are set to escape any action as it would appear the FA are satisfied that adequate safety measures were in place. There were 1,400 stewards on duty and the suspected offenders were swiftly taken into custody by police.
The FA will still contact United after reviewing referee Howard Webb's report, and the club have promised to ban indefinitely any fan found guilty of throwing missiles inside the stadium.
A man was charged on Thursday with throwing a bottle at Bellamy. Adam Teese, 26, of Heaton Chapel, Greater Manchester, is accused of 'throwing a missile on to the pitch' during the Carling Cup semi-final at Old Trafford, police said. He was one of 11 fans arrested on the night. It took the total number of arrests to 40 over the two legs, although there was less trouble than Greater Manchester Police had expected.
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More than 400 officers were on duty, many carrying out body searches on fans arriving at the stadium, but there was no repeat of the sinister circumstances surrounding the first leg when some were found to be carrying darts and golf balls.
Over the two games, City once again showed they pose an increasing threat to United's dominance, not just in Manchester but over English football as a whole.Now Mancini's men must dust themselves down and focus on their challenge for a top-four place in the Barclays Premier League and an opportunity to reach Wembley in the FA Cup.
Not surprisingly, the City boss had a different view of the game from Ferguson, claiming his side had matched their neighbours on the night.
'If you play badly then OK,' said Mancini. 'But when you play at Old Trafford at the same level as United I'm very disappointed for the players. I thought we played better than in the first leg at home. The Carling Cup is finished. It's important we forget about this game.' To United, the spoils. For City, the battle is just beginning.
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