Contrary to Sir Alex Ferguson's warning, Steve Bennett, the referee, did not require a police escort on his way out of the City of Manchester Stadium on Saturday afternoon, but there was, just as the delirious home supporters had taunted, a taxi waiting for the Manchester United manager.
Where it was taking him, nobody seemed to know, but the driver would have been well advised to keep his thoughts to himself and the same would apply to Ferguson’s nearest and dearest. After United famously lost 5-1 at Maine Road in 1989, Ferguson’s wife got home to find him with his head buried under a pillow, "engulfed", as he wrote in his autobiography, by "a sense of guilt" and haunted by his inability to identify what was wrong. At least this time, unless he buried his head in the sand rather than under a pillow, the problems should have been blindingly obvious.
There were many elements to the 145th Manchester derby, not least the performances of Richard Dunne, Stephen Ireland and Trevor Sinclair for Manchester City, but, in the final analysis, one cannot help coming back to Ferguson, who is in that unenviable position where his faltering regime is defined not by victories but by defeats, each one a blow to his hopes of staying in charge next season.
Whatever Ferguson and his assistant, Carlos Queiroz, suggested, United did not lose this game because of Bennett. The reasons were far closer to home: another strange team selection, another shambles in defence, another poor display from a substandard midfield and another indefensible show of immaturity from Cristiano Ronaldo.
To blame it on the referee was absurd; to bully him, as witnesses claim Ferguson did at half-time, was appalling. If Bennett mentions the incident in his report to the FA, Ferguson will be charged with misconduct.
Queiroz, when he had finished whining about Bennett, preached on Saturday about what "good defensive sides" normally do, but United are nothing of the sort. In terms of organisation and tactical discipline, they could learn an awful lot from City — who even on their off-days resemble a team following orders from their manager, Stuart Pearce — never mind Chelsea.