Both the Manchester clubs finally got their first wins of the Champions League campaign on Tuesday with United beating Romania minnows Otelul Galati 2-0 and City edging Villarreal 2-1.
However, both were not pretty affairs, United relying on two Wayne Rooney second-half penalties - making him the highest ever scoring Englishman in the competition with 26 goals - in a match where both sides ended with 10 men.
United, though, still trail Benfica in the table, the impressive Portuguese outfit maintaining their unbeaten record in all competitions with a 2-0 win away at Basel.
"They made it difficult for us," admitted United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
"But we were in control of the game. I'm satisfied with the result. We had to be patient and work our way into the game."
City's win was harsh on their resilient Spanish opponents Villarreal as a goal in time added-on by Sergio Aguero gave them the three points and all but ended the losers hopes of progressing with a third successive defeat.
"I said before the game it was important to win and I think we deserved to because we had a lot of chances to score," said a content City handler Roberto Mancini.
"When you play in the Champions League for the first time you need to improve game after game. We needed to win and I think tonight after this game we can do better."
City got another boost as group leaders Bayern Munich drew 1-1 away at second-placed Napoli - a game more notable for Manuel Neuer letting in his first goal in 1147 minutes of action.
It took one of his own team-mate Holger Badstuber's boots to do so.
Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said he was satisfied with the result which leaves them unbeaten but thought they could have taken all the points.
"Overall, we played well," said Heynckes, who is bidding to win the trophy for the second time after guiding Real Madrid to the 1998 trophy.
"I think that it wouldn't have been unjust if we had won.
"The own goal is obviously unfortunate but we can also sometimes make mistakes."
Real Madrid's perfect start to this season's Champions League continued as they steamrollered French side Lyon 4-0 to make it three wins from three matches.
The meringues have not won Europe's premier club competition since 2002 and are desperate to dislodge bitter rivals Barcelona from their perch as European champions.
Goals from former Lyon star Karim Benzema, Sami Khedira, an own goal by Hugo Lloris and a fourth from Sergio Ramos rounded off a great night for them.
Real coach Jose Mourinho, a winner with Porto in 2004 and then Inter Milan in 2010, said that the win had significantly eased the pressure on them in terms of topping the group.
"With three games left, Ajax or Lyon can still win the group, but there is less pressure on us," said Mourinho.
"Each point is a million more and in times of recession a million is a million."
A bad night for French clubs was compounded by champions Lille's 1-0 home defeat by Inter Milan.
A first-half goal by Gian Paolo Pazzini was enough to give the 2010 Champions League winners victory in their 100th match in the competition and a much-needed win for Claudio Ranieri and his players, who are struggling in Serie A.
"One swallow doesn't a summer make but it's important to win," said Ranieri.
"The lads are working very hard, it's a bleak period but I want to turn the page."
While Lille will do well to compete for a knockout stage spot, Inter face a battle with CSKA Moscow and Trabzonspor, the Russian outfit impressing with a 3-0 home victory over the Turkish side, who stunned Inter in their opening match at the San Siro.
A brace from impressive Ivory Coast international striker Seidou Doumbia and one from Latvian substitute Aleksandrs Cauna, once of modest English side Watford, re-energized the hosts’ campaign.
"It was much tougher to win today than it may appear looking at the scoreline," CSKA manager Leonid Slutsky said.
"But we played confidently keeping everything under control and didn't allow Trabzonspor to create serious threats except one occasion at the start."
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