They were, however, to take on their arch-rivals without Paul Pogba available to them through injury and with Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku only handed places on the bench.
Anthony Martial was able to maintain his scoring run on derby day, but United slipped to a 3-1 defeat on the road and now sit eighth in the Premier League table, 12 points behind City and seven adrift of the Champions League spots.
Former United star Neville told Sky Sports of the current situation and challenges: “It’s sobering to say but we shouldn’t compare Manchester United with Manchester City in terms of watching them at this moment in time.
“There is an absolute gulf between the two teams in terms of performance levels. Twelve points is about right at this moment in time, after 12 games.
“United’s biggest problem isn’t Manchester City, it’s how they get closer to the rest of the top four and get into that race. City, at this moment in time, are a different level all over the pitch.”
United fell behind inside 12 minutes against City, as David Silva broke the deadlock, with Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan also netting for the Blues.
Neville admits that Pogba proved to be a big miss for Mourinho, with the World Cup winner required in the biggest games to provide leadership and inspiration to those around him.
“I feared the worst when they arrived here and I was told he hadn’t travelled to the team hotel,” added the ex-England international.
“This Manchester United team play in moments in big games. He delivers in moments.
“He can give the ball away but he’s the one player that has the arrogance to think he can play in any stadium in the world, on any pitch in the world in front of any player in the world and take them on.
“He believes in himself. It’s a great quality and shouldn’t be underestimated. To carry that through the scrutiny he has, the price tag, he still carries that weight in the Manchester United team and they look to him.
“He’s the one player who can transfer the ball from back to front, in terms of he can carry the ball. He can play a pass – he’s got United’s most assists this season, he’s got three goals. They look to him and he’s had a relationship with Martial over the last few weeks.
“I thought Manchester United were in deep trouble when he hadn’t travelled. I was thinking a midfield of [Nemanja] Matic, [Marouane] Fellaini and [Ander] Herrera, how are they going to get the ball through midfield? It was never going to happen without him.”