Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will not be fooled by Manchester United's derby win, however impressive and deserved it was.
United may have won the latest battle against City, with Sunday's 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium, but their local rivals, who hold an 11-point lead over them at the top of the Premier League, are set to win the war.
Despite the undoubted progress made by United this season – more goals scored and 12 points better off that at this stage last season – they are still not title contenders.
City have set the benchmark for the consistency required to be champions, which is the challenge facing Solskjaer and his players next season, as they continue to move forwards.
Too many soulless, goalless draws and points dropped against sides they should be beating – Crystal Palace, Sheffield United and West Brom – have cost United the chance of challenging City for the title.
Solskjaer's three successive derby wins at the Etihad, as well as last season's victory over Pep Guardiola's side at Old Trafford, have proved he can beat the best in the business when it matters.
The ability to win big games when the pressure is on has been a feature of Solskjaer's 27 months in charge, but the next step is to produce that performance level over the course of a season.
City did so when winning back-to-back titles and again this term, while last season it was Liverpool whose formidable winning mentality earned them a first league title for 30 years.
It is eight years since Sir Alex Ferguson delivered United's last title before retiring, and if Solskjaer is to bring the trophy back to Old Trafford, the Red Devils must become a relentless winning machine once again.
Reflecting on United's inconsistency this season, Solskjaer said: “Every team, every game, creates problems.
“Of course you’d like to see a Manchester United team on the break, creating spaces like this every game, but it just doesn’t happen like this.
“But we want to improve, I want the players to improve, we want to learn from this experience and we need to improve on so many things to get our consistency better.
“City are 11 points ahead with 10 games to go, so we need to be better, focus on ourselves and be a better Man United.
“I think we’re a better Man United than we were 12, 13, 16 months ago. We've improved massively, we're more robust and resilient and there’s more personality in the team. That’s what I like.”
United skipper Harry Maguire praised Solskajer and his staff for the tactical approach which nullified City's attacking threat and brought to an end their 21-game winning run.
“We have brilliant coaches and a brilliant manager and brilliant analysts as well,” said Maguire.
“Credit to them because they're the ones who sent us out in that formation and made those tweaks when they had the ball.
“For sure we can improve, we can do better in parts of the game. But it was an important win and an important performance after a disappointing trip to London in midweek.”
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