Despite dominating possession and enjoying the vast majority of chances, for the second time in three outings this season, United failed to find the net.
Instead, Geovanni's first-half effort proved decisive, maintaining Sven-Goran Eriksson's 100 per cent start as Blues boss and leaving their visitors languishing in the bottom five, seven points behind their city rivals.
With Ferguson's team not in action again until Tottenham visit Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon, United could be in an embarrassingly low position by the time they kick off.
And, while no-one in the Red Devils camp is conceding defeat just yet, Ferguson accepts his side must start winning - fast.
"We have given ourselves an uphill fight, there is no doubt about that," said the Scot.
"We have to get a win under our belts.
"We have Tottenham on Sunday. That has become a very important game for us."
Two points from three games represents United's worst start in 1992, although they did finish that campaign as champions.
A year earlier, City won their opening three matches, exactly what they have done now, with Eriksson's many critics having their harsh words rammed down their throats in no uncertain manner.
"Three games, three wins, three clean sheets. I must be happy with that and I am," reflected Eriksson.
"Today was our most difficult game so far.
"Of course, if you gave points for possession of the ball, shots on target and shots off target we would have lost. But we scored a goal and they didn't.
"We have beaten Manchester United and that doesn't happen every day, although we still have a long way to go yet."