Sergio Aguero put the visitors ahead after eight minutes but Ashley Young grabbed an equaliser six minutes later before Marouane Fellaini headed United in front in a high octane first half.
Juan Mata and Chris Smalling scored soon after the re-start to put United firmly in control, before Aguero pulled a consolation goal back for Manuel Pellegrini's side, scoring his 100th goal for the club.
As is often the case in such a highly contested clash, several mini-battles took place throughout 90 minutes.
However, none were more enthralling than the sparring match that took place between United's Marouane Felaini and City's Yaya Toure in the centre of the park.
It becomes evident from the Opta stats that both players excelled in differing areas, but who came out on top in Sunday's hotly-contested battle?
|Total Passes||Pass Accuracy (%)||Total Key Passes||Total Scoring Attempts||Shot Accuracy (%)||Tackles Won||Interceptions||Aerial Duels Won||Mins Played|
It is instantly clear that Yaya Toure was the more effective of the pair when in possession; the more technically adept, so to speak.
Despite playing fewer passes than his Belgian counterpart, the Manchester City man was able to complete 10% more of his attempts to find a team-mate. He also stakes a claim to the only key pass recorded by the two midfielders at Old Trafford.
Toure has proved to be much more productive this season than Fellaini, scoring more goals (eight to five) and providing more assists (one to zero), but the tables were turned on Sunday, with the Manchester United man scoring a vital second for Louis van Gaal's side.
Fellaini managed just the single attempt at goal throughout his 83-minute appearance, and yet he converted with aplomb. He gave Gael Clichy very little chance, rising at the back post to head in his fifth Premier League strike of the season.
Toure, meanwhile, managed two attempts for City, both of which proved inaccurate.
It was Fellaini's aerial presence and physicality that saw him excel against City. As Ashley Young correctly noted after the match, quoted by Eurosport: "On his day, he’s unplayable. I don’t think Yaya Toure wanted to be tracking back, he wanted to be at the other end of the pitch but he had that job to do on Felli [Fellaini]."
Indeed, the Belgian's presence ensured a torrid afternoon for Toure, who won just two aerial duels, while failing to make a single tackle. Unsurprisingly, Fellaini emerged superior here, winning a match-best nine headers and finding success in one attempted challenge.
Supporters from either side will have enjoyed the enthralling battle that took place between Fellaini and Toure at Old Trafford, but United fans undoubtedly have more to smile about.
Not only did their team claim all three points, while humiliating their local rivals, they also witnessed the unorthodox Belgian getting one over one of the most highly-regarded midfielders in Europe.