Premier League

Five great derbies for City fans

SpecialtoFoxSoccer GRAHAM SHAW
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The date: April 27, 1974
The venue: Old Trafford
The score: Manchester United 0 Manchester City 1

If you’re a Blue, derby days don’t come much better than this. You relegate your bitter rival, and you do it using one of their all-time legends. How sweet it is.

The words “And Denis has done it” are now etched in derby folklore, after Denis Law backheeled United into Division Two amid chaotic scenes at Old Trafford.

In reality Law’s late winner at a ground where he was once adored didn’t alone send this awful United team down (results elsewhere would have ensured that) but hey, why let the facts ruin a great story?

The pure theater the moment provided, and the chaotic repercussions, make this one of THE iconic moments in Manchester football history. From the TV commentary to the way in which Law refused to celebrate sticking the dagger into the hearts of his former Red team-mates.

Once the ‘King of the Stretford End’, now he was the man who had sent them ¬crashing spinning out of English football’s top division.

The pitch invasion that followed (just think swarming hordes in flared trousers wearing huge bar scarves) saw fences erected at Old Trafford the season after. It was an afternoon symptomatic of the era as mayhem reigned in M16.

United’s pain didn’t last long – within a season they were back in the top flight. But the memory lives on…especially if you’re a Blue.

The date: September 23, 1989
The venue: Maine Road
The score: Manchester City 5 Manchester United 1

Ask most City fans and they’ll cite this afternoon as the greatest of their lives. Wedding days, lottery wins and the birth of children just pale into insignificance. It will forever be remembered as the ‘Maine Road Massacre’.

Alex Ferguson’s United arrived on Moss Side brimming with big names and costly new signings – headed by Britain’s most expensive player in £2.3million central defender Gary Pallister

Lying in wait was a City team packed with exciting young homegrown talent, headed by the ultimately ill-fated Paul Lake.

Two years previously these hungry City pups had beaten United to win the FA Youth Cup, and on this glorious September afternoon they graduated to the big time.

By half-time they led 3-0 as Pallister resembled Bambi On Ice more than the Rolls Royce United thought they’d spent big bucks on.

The visitors, without the injured Bryan Robson, showed once again they were a one-man team in this era as they were torn apart by City’s young lions.

When one team is a defensive shambles and the other is hyped up and ready to fight for its lives, the result is normally slaughter. And so it was.

Mark Hughes’ spectacular overhead kick early in the second half gave United a flicker of hope as they pulled within 3-1. But within minutes normal service was resumed. Pallister was again flat on his back, Jim Leighton was again clawing at thin air in the United goal and inflatable bananas (they were THE fashion accessory of the day for City fans) were again being gleefully held aloft on the Kippax.

At the final whistle joyous City fans spilled out onto the streets around Maine Road ecstatic at what they’d just seen. Alex Ferguson meanwhile described it as the worst moment in charge of any club.

In his biography, 'Managing My Life', he wrote: "We were slaughtered 5-1 in the most embarrassing defeat of my management career. After the game, I went straight home, got into bed, and put the pillow over my head. A sense of guilt had engulfed me." 

For City in the 80s/90s this was about as good as it got. Their young stars failed for a variety of reasons to hit the heights this afternoon promised, and manager Mel Machin was fired just two months later. United meanwhile would soon start their ascent to glory under Ferguson.

But if you’re a Blue those are minor points…

The date: November 9, 2002
The venue: Maine Road
The score: Manchester City 3 Manchester United 1

Gary Neville and Peter Schmeichel shared many golden Saturday afternoons together in Manchester – this wasn’t one of them.

Three years had passed since the epic Treble-clinching night in the Nou Camp, and Schmeichel had returned to English football with United’s bitter cross-town rivals.

The afternoon started promisingly for the neutral seeking bitter combat as Neville blanked his former team-mate in the tunnel before kick-off. But he couldn’t shut out what would happen once the action got under way.

First Fabien Barthez somehow spilled a tame Shaun Goater effort to allow Nicolas Anelka to fire City ahead. Soon after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer levelled for United – and it appeared the favorites might make their class tell.

But then, shortly before half-time, came the moment Neville would probably describe as one of the worst in his career. Somehow he was dispossessed by Goater near the touchline and the City striker slid the ball past Barthez to put City 2-1 up.

The images of the United man standing alone in despair as City fans danced a jig in the background have adorned the bedroom walls of many a youthful Blue since that day.

Goater added a third soon after the break and from that moment on the City fans were able to celebrate fully a huge victory in the final derby game at Maine Road.

For Blues everywhere it was a fitting farewell to cross-town rivalry at this famous venue. For Neville, Sir Alex Ferguson and moneybags United, it was something they’d rather forget.

The date: March 14, 2004
The venue: Maine Road
The score: Manchester City 4 Manchester United 1

The first Manchester derby at Eastlands followed pretty much the same script as the last one played at Maine Road. Great if you were a Blue, not so if you were a Red…

A United team in transition arrived behind enemy lines – Roy Keane and the Treble team were on the way out, while the new era was on the horizon with a youthful Cristiano Ronaldo in the visiting ranks.

That mix didn’t make for a good afternoon for Fergie and co at the City of Manchester Stadium, as they were destroyed by Kevin Keegan’s Blues.

To add to the pain, it was none other than living Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler who started the rout, poking the ball home just three minutes in. Now at this time Robbie’s party piece was holding four fingers up to the United fans, to signify the number of European Cups Liverpool had won, and the number United hadn’t.. Fair to say he enjoyed this moment…

Former Old Trafford trainee Jon Macken added a second and even a reply from Paul Scholes failed to stem the tide.

With United in chaos Trevor Sinclair fired home a third, and a brilliant late fourth from the emerging Shaun Wright-Phillips put an emphatic exclamation mark on City’s convincing victory.

The date: April 16, 2011
The venue: Wembley Stadium
The score: Manchester City 1 Manchester United 0

If you were a City fan, you knew the song. Even if you weren’t, you probably still knew it. By now it featured the words “35 years” heavily.

The favorite chant of the United faithful hit Blues just where it really hurt – more than three decades had passed since they had last lifted a major trophy.

So what better way to take a huge step towards ending the drought by beating your hated Treble-chasing rival at the home of English football.

And so it was that Yaya Toure etched his name into City folklore with a second-half winner to settle this FA Cup semi-final, intercepting an awful Michael Carrick pass before sliding the ball gleefully past Edwin van der Sar.

Toure was the undoubted hero of the hour, and would go on to net the winner in the final against Stoke a few short weeks later.

But for every hero there has to be a goat, in this case step forward Dimitar Berbatov. With Wayne Rooney recently banned for cussing into a TV camera it was the big Bulgarian who started in attack for United, and failed miserably.

Two golden chances went begging early for Berbatov, and from that moment on you got the feeling it would be City’s day. Toure’s super goal added to that feeling, and the dismissal of Paul Scholes for one of his famous “tackles” effectively rubber-stamped it.

The follow-up against Stoke may have been the one that finally put a trophy in the Eastlands cabinet, but it was this day of all days which Blues will always class as the sweetest.

Graham Shaw is the editor-in-chief of UK-based 365 Media Group.

Graham Shaw is the editor-in-chief of UK-based 365 Media Group.

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