Mark Hughes has admitted Manchester City have some catching up to do before they can compete on equal terms with neighbours United.
An eagerly-awaited Manchester derby turned into a damp squib at Eastlands on Sunday with the visitors in control throughout their 1-0 win, even after Cristiano Ronaldo had been sent off.
And Hughes acknowledges United currently have a decisive edge, conceding: "We have to compete against Manchester United and in the near future we will. But at the moment they are a better team than us."
Aside from a speculative Stephen Ireland effort that flicked off a post and a late snap-shot from skipper Richard Dunne which Patrice Evra booted off the line, City did not create a chance as they slumped to 14th in the table, just two points above the drop zone.
No-one expects it to be that way at the end of the season, with City's super-rich owners set to splash the cash in next month's transfer window.
"We are going in the right direction but this is not going to happen overnight for us and in the first-half we showed them too much respect," Hughes added.
"If I can be diplomatic and say United have great experience of being able to control the game and dictate the momentum of the play. Sometimes they do that by stopping people in their tracks and Shaun Wright-Phillips was stopped on numerous occasions."
City defender Micah Richards limped off with an ankle injury that makes him a major doubt for Wednesday's UEFA Cup tie with Paris St Germain. However, at least there was some good news as Pablo Zabaleta reported no ill-effects from his 45-minute run-out after a recent thigh injury.
"I was genuinely concerned Pablo Zabaleta would break down but he seems to have come through," said a relieved Hughes. "Overall I am disappointed though. Good teams have a way to win and Manchester United did that.
"Even the sending-off did not really help us because they were able to get two banks of four behind the ball very quickly. We just didn't have the answers."
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