Goals in either half from Katie Zelem and Jess Sigsworth claimed the points in the second professional Manchester Derby, as the two sides met in the Group C encounter at Leigh Sports Village.
A disappointing afternoon also saw Keira Walsh sent off for a lunge on Kirsty Hanson, as the Conti Cup holders endured a day to forget, falling to just our second domestic defeat since May 2018.
Both sides had enjoyed a fine start to the new campaign, with City unbeaten, clinching seven wins from eight, and newly-promoted United impressing during their maiden weeks in the top flight since facing Nick Cushing's side in the league opener back in September.
Although the Blue half of Manchester triumphed that day, courtesy of Caroline Weir’s wonderstrike, United had been the better side in the opening 45 with City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck required to produce her very best to preserve her clean sheet.
Once again, the Reds came flying out of the blocks in their first home Derby and City succumbed to the worst possible start this time, as the hosts opened the scoring inside seven minutes when Zelem curled a stunning free-kick into the top corner, after Leah Galton had drawn a foul on the edge of the area.
City responded reasonably well to the setback without testing Mary Earps in the United goal. Cushing’s side pressed United into mistakes and ventured into promising positions but the end product was found lacking as every cross was cleared or fired into Earps’ arms.
The Reds meanwhile seemed content to soak up the pressure, blocking every attack and looking to threaten instead on the counter. Casey Stoney’s side felt they should have had a penalty when Sigsworth went to ground under pressure from Megan Campbell but referee Amy Fearn waved away the protests.
Roebuck was then called into action to deny Hanson with an excellent stop, pushing a long-range effort over the crossbar to keep her side in the game.
Lauren Hemp proved City’s brightest creative spark in the first half, weaving her way past the United defence with superb pace, but the visitors struggled to carve any clear-cut chances and headed into the break trailing.
City’s half-time teamtalk however would fly out of the window ten minutes after the restart, as United doubled their lead when Sigsworth poked Hanson’s cross past Roebuck.
Matters worsened with 25 minutes remaining, when Cushing’s side were reduced to ten with Walsh shown a red card for a late lunge on Hanson.
As City pressed to find a route back into the game, Hemp came closest to halving the deficit with a header, which Earps gathered well, but with the player advantage, United controlled possession to cruise to victory.
A thoroughly forgettable day for City, who were second best in every department to their United counterparts, who defended valiantly and took their chances when they came.
Even with 11, the visitors struggled to create any real opportunities of note and Red shot-stopper Earps will have been pleasantly surprised to savour such a quiet afternoon.
In truth, City never recovered from the setback of the early opener.
Player of the Match: Lauren Hemp
Earlier in the week, manager Cushing had expressed his excitement to see Hemp back in contention and ready to show what she can do.
City’s best attacking threat, the youngster looked most likely to produce a magic moment with rapid bursts of pace and the most dangerous crosses.
Hopefully, a sign of things to come from the City and England starlet, who made her senior Lionesses bow this month.
How we lined up
Walsh sought to protect the backline in defensive midfield, sitting in behind Weir and Jill Scott. Pauline Bremer made her return from injury to lead the line upfront, flanked by Hemp and Janine Beckie.
City have a rare week break before making the trip to Borehamwood to face Champions Arsenal.
Cushing’s side face the Gunners on Sunday 27 October in a 2:30pm kick-off, looking to extend our lead atop the Super League table.
We then travel to Madrid for the Women’s Champions League Round of 16 second leg on Wednesday 30 October (7:30pm local time), needing an away goal to secure progression, following the 1-1 draw at the Academy Stadium in midweek.
City return to home soil with the Conti Cup visit of Birmingham on Sunday 3 November in a 2pm kick-off.
Tickets for all home games are available online or at the Etihad Stadium Ticket Office.