Thrillingly, a championship was on the line (City's victory would put them top on goal difference, which is where they would conclude the campaign amid all that nail-biting drama just two games later). And there's no bigger rival than City and his long-time coaching foe from their years in Spain, Pep Guardiola.
In recent weeks a glint of hope has appeared, with the success of Feyenoord, Huddersfield, Southampton and West Ham - all relatively modest outfits this season - in closing down the space City could operate in and shutting up shop for a point. Firstly, that I had no kind of personal problem with him, no matter what the press said.
As is usually the case, this game will be decided in midfield and it would be a big blow to City if David Silva is not fit. Less happily still, the main thrust of that 10-point plan is that "he who has the ball has fear".
Mourinho has tended to deploy a back three this season only against other sides playing a back three - CSKA Moscow, Arsenal, Watford, Chelsea, Tottenham - but, if only for reasons of personnel he seems likely to use a back three on Sunday.
Since the start of the Premier League, the biggest live audience for any single match is the 4.081 million average for the clash of Mancunian neighbours on April 30, 2012. Having an additional spare man at the back should anyway make it easier to pack that key area just outside the penalty area where City can not be allowed space. The nature of Guardiola's philosophy means his side will always be vulnerable if you can get through the initial press.
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Fellaini, on the other hand, has been a more short-term problem having missed just the last three games owing to a recurrence of a knee injury he picked up while on global duty.
Pogba was dismissed for a nasty challenge on Hector Bellerin.
"And secondly, that I wanted to show what I could bring to the team, to prove myself". In his absence, United may have to go more direct, using Lukaku's aerial ability to win knockdowns for Anthony Martial and Lingard.
Although both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho had been less than impressed with their experiences in China a year ago, City had been open to returning next summer, though United had already been expected to tour the United States regardless.
But the sense is that this isn't really about City stopping United from scoring. And on that might rest the next three to four years of English football.