MANCHESTER, England -- Sir Alex Ferguson's early season problems deepened after Geovanni's 31st minute goal settled the Manchester derby in favor of Sven Goran Eriksson's City side and left Ferguson's United without a win in their opening three league games.
Geovanni races away after driving home Manchester City's 31st minute winner.
The victory sent City to the head of the Premiership table with a maximum nine points from their opening three games as Eriksson's dream start at Eastlands continued.
His side are two points clear of Chelsea, who salvaged a 1-1 draw at Liverpool with Frank Lampard's 62nd minute penalty.
Defeat at the hands of the former England coach will have been frustrating enough for Ferguson, who experienced a fractious relationship with him during Eriksson's time in charge of the national team.
But more importantly, the United manager was left to contemplate a title defense that has brought just two points and one goal from three frustrating outings.
It is United's worst start to a Premier League season since 1992, when they managed just one point from their opening three matches. It is also the worst start by any defending champions.
United lie 16th in the table, trailing their neighbors by seven points and Chelsea by five.
And with Wayne Rooney out for two months after breaking a foot in last week's opener, United's latest misfiring display will understandably give cause for concern.
United may have dominated possession but a combination of Geovanni's deadly finishing and Micah Richards' outstanding defensive work meant this was a day for the blue half of Manchester.
With Rooney, Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer missing injured and Cristiano Ronaldo starting a three-match suspension, Ferguson had little option but to ask Carlos Tevez to operate as a lone striker.
But with Nani, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes all quick to offer support to the Argentine, there initially seemed little doubt United would have more than enough firepower to overcome a stuttering City.
Twice in the opening half Tevez and Scholes exchanged quick passes to unpick the City defense and create an opening for Nani but on both occasions the winger was denied by City keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
The 20-year-old Nani- a £17 million ($33.7million) capture from Sporting Lisbon this summer - was eventually withdrawn after 60 minutes after a display that confirmed it could be some time before he emulates the feats of compatriot Ronaldo.
With Owen Hargreaves bolstering the United midfield with an impressive Premiership debut performance, Ferguson's side completely dominated the opening period.
Were it not for a succession of outstanding blocks, tackles and clearances by Richards, United would have been well on their way to a first win of the season long before City finally sprang into life.
It took Eriksson's men fully 30 minutes to manage an effort on goal - a wayward, long range effort from Michael Johnson.
But it took just another 60 seconds to register a second attempt - this time from Geovanni - that fired the home side into an unlikely lead.
In a rare moment of fluent attacking play, Didi Hamann linked with Elano, who picked out his fellow Brazilian Geovanni in space 30 yards out.
And having been given time to set his sights by a flat-footed United back-four, the former Barcelona man drilled an inch-perfect strike beyond Edwin van der Sar.
The goal prompted a predictable response from United who, after a brief spell of control by City, laid siege to the home side's goal for the whole of the second period without properly testing Schmeichel.
Nemanja Vidic sent a bullet header crashing against the bar three minutes after the interval and Tevez somehow flashed the ball wide from Ryan Giggs' low cross.
And it was Tevez who wasted United's last clear-cut chance when he headed wide from just three yards deep into added time.
Eriksson praised his defenders for a resolute performance.
"Today we defended very well, our back line and goalkeeper were fantastic," the Swede told the BBC. "I'm very happy, nine points and three clean sheets.
"We'll enjoy the night but the season is very long... today we had a bit of luck."
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson had no excuses, saying: "We really should have sewn the game up even before they'd crossed the halfway line. We've only got ourselves to blame -- let's make no mistake about that." E-mail to a friend
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