In its quest to capture back-to-back league titles, something that has not been done since United took three in a row from 2006 to 2008, City have lacked that something special early on.
As a result, Roberto Mancini's men have drawn four times, although they have yet to record a loss in the Premier League this season.
With just over a quarter of the campaign in the books, the champions will have to do something extra to get over the hump to push for a repeat.
But when push comes to shove, what exactly can City do overtake United and Chelsea while fending them off late in the season?
Here are six bold predictions for the rest of City's campaign.
Okay, so maybe it's not so bold to visualize City, who indeed fielded the best defense last season with 29 goals allowed, as the league's top-scoring defense again.
City has given up just nine goals on the season so far, with Arsenal's eight goals allowed the only better number.
Injuries have proven a challenge, but Mancini has plenty of the solid stuff on the back line with captain and Belgian international Vincent Kompany patrolling the defensive third.
With an attack that has been far less potent than at the same point last season, City will need to keep up a thick defense while the offense gathers its form.
Carlos Tevez claimed a share of the Golden Boot two seasons ago with Dimitar Berbatov, only to go through a tumultuous season with City the year after.
But a seemingly resurgent Tevez has gained much of the playing time at the top of City's attack, playing in combinations with Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero, who is still gathering his form after an early injury.
Tevez is four goals behind league leader Robin van Persie, who has eight scores to his name, but there is little doubt that the Argentine is capable of scoring a hefty share of goals.
This much is true. If the powerful goal scorer is to claim the Golden Boot, he has an uphill battle ahead.
City has made its deep pockets no secret, as the club has secured some of the best talent in the world in the past few seasons.
But in the past two January transfer windows, City has not made the biggest splashes. It did acquire Edin Dzeko in January 2011, but the club has not made that blockbuster deal that everyone expects.
With the Blues showing some early signs of vulnerability, Mancini may be compelled to send a few feelers in anticipation of a big signing or two.
In an impressive few games in the European Championships, Mario Balotelli grew up quickly.
Back with his club, the fiery Italian has hardly had that same influence surrounded by a host of supremely capable veterans.
In nine league appearances, Balotelli has not score a goal. Moreover, the 22-year-old has taken the second-most attempts on goal (26), but has just three shots on target, fewer than David Silva, Samir Nasri and Micah Richards.
With the offensive lull that City appears to be in, perhaps it is only a matter of time before the mysterious Balotelli morphs into his best form.
City's attack often goes as David Silva and/or Samir Nasri goes, with the Spaniard coming off a 15-assist campaign last season.
With the offense slowing gathering itself (City has 18 goals, the least of the top four), Silva's influence will have a big say as to how potent it becomes.
A wealth of strikers looking to re-establish chemistry is an opportunity for Silva to begin piling his creations.
Juan Mata currently shares the league lead in assists with five, and Silva's lone offering is well behind his compatriot's numbers.
Silva has gone through these lapses in form, but on his eventual return, he can be one of the most magical playmakers in the Premier League.
It had to be coming, but even when the champions are playing just a solid brand of football, they sit among the top in the table.
Just two points separate the top three in United, Chelsea and City, and with Mancini's side having been quite repellent to a loss, a top-form City is easily a title-winning one.
The early indicators point to a three-horse race in the spring, and what a race it will be with a trio of high-quality clubs.
With the club's Champions League aspirations wearing thinner by the match day, winning the league will become the sole objective. Behind a midseason run of great form, coupled with some January signings, City will raise the trophy again at season's end.