Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick recognised the gulf between the Red Devils and Premier League leaders Manchester City after doubles from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez inflicted a 4-1 derby defeat on Sunday.
City re-established a six-point lead at the top of the table over Liverpool and opened up a 22-point advantage over United, whose chances of just qualifying for the Champions League next season are fading fast.
Rangnick’s men now trail Arsenal, who also have three games in hand, by a point in fourth.
“It is a difficult game that shows we have a long way to go to close that gap,” said the German.
“Everyone knows how good they are. They are one of the top teams in the world and there is a gap between the two teams.”
At the top of the table, Liverpool also have a game in hand to reduce City’s advantage to three points.
But Pep Guardiola’s men responded to the pressure applied by the Reds’ seven-game winning run in the league by bouncing back from two sub-par performances against Tottenham and Everton.
Just as in their meeting at Old Trafford earlier in the season, City cruised to victory as they secured just a second league double over their local rivals since an Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 swung the balance of power in Manchester.
Former United captain Roy Keane accused some United players of “giving up” and claimed they should not play for the club again.
And Guardiola summed up the difference in desire as well as quality between the teams.
“The biggest success for me as a manager is that after three Premier League titles is that still we run like we run, and are there to try (to win the league) again,” he said.