Manchester United 1 Manchester City 2
But expectations that the United players of today would mark the event by beating neighbours City in style lay in tatters after the champions failed miserably in their task.
City had not won at Old Trafford for almost 34 years - in fact their last league double over the Red Devils was in the 1969-70 season, yet it was the Blues who played with determination.
The minute's silence for the 23 victims of the air crash was impeccably observed.
It came shortly after both teams had been led out by a lone piper and United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and his City counterpart Sven-Goran Eriksson had both laid wreaths on behalf of their clubs in the centre circle.
United, playing in a replica kit of that worn by the Busby Babes before the crash, made a bright start and came close to scoring in the seventh minute.
Nani's cross from the right was touched down by Carlos Tevez to Ryan Giggs at the far post and his blistering shot from 12yards was well tipped over by City goalkeeper Joe Hart.
City's Stephen Ireland tested United keeper Edwin Van der Sar with a far-post header from Martin Petrov's left-wing cross after a quarter of an hour, but things got even better for City in the 24th minute.
Benjani Mwaruwari, making his debut for City following his protracted move from Portsmouth, found Petrov on the left.
The Bulgarian winger guided a brilliant through ball to Ireland inside the United box from wide and, although Van der Sar blocked his effort, the ball fell to Darius Vassell on the right side of the penalty area.
Van der Sar blocked Vassell's first effort, but the rebound fell to the City striker who scored with a crisp left-foot shot from ten yards.
Hart produced a magnificent save to keep out Tevez's ferocious drive from the right edge of the City box three minutes later.
But City could sense United were below par and that a second goal was there for the taking and they made it 2-0 in the closing seconds of the first half.
Cristiano Ronaldo's clearing header on the near post from a Petrov corner fell to Ireland on the right corner of the box.
He returned the ball to Petrov, who whipped in a superb cross which went in of Benjani's shoulder eight yards from goal.
The expected United onslaught after the interval never materialised. City looked comfortable, although United netted a consolation effort seconds into injury time.
Paul Scholes threaded his pass through the middle to substitute Michael Carrick 12 yards out and he scored with a right-foot shot into the bottom corner of the City net.