Premier League

Five great derbies for United fans

SpecialtoFoxSoccer GRAHAM SHAW
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The date: November 7, 1993
The venue: Maine Road
The score: Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3

Alex Ferguson’s Premier League champions arrived on Moss Side trying to get over the hangover of a shock early exit from the European Cup (the Champions League was still a dream…) .

Meanwhile the hot fashion accessory for City fans was a Galatasaray scarf – they were selling like hot cakes outside Maine Road in honor of the Turkish club’s defeat of the Red Devils just four days earlier.

Forty-five minutes in, and the pre-match festivities for Blues everywhere looked likely to continue into the night as Niall Quinn planted two picture-perfect headers past the flat-footed Peter Schmeichel. 2-0 City at the break, anyone for another 5-1?

Not so fast though, as United did what they were to become famous for in subsequent years – they rose from the dead.

First they got a massive helping hand from City central defender Michel Vonk (remember him?), whose awful backpass gave a certain Eric Cantona the chance to pull one back.

City maintained their now slender advantage into the final quarter, when Fergie introduced Ryan Giggs from the bench. The Welshman’s opening touch was a delicious first-time cross which left Cantona all alone at the back post to sweep home the equalizer.

At least City would get a point though, wouldn’t they? Again not so fast. As the dying embers of a full-blooded encounter were about to disappear, Lee Sharpe’s backheel set Denis Irwin away down the left.

Irwin crossed low and true into the City six-yard box and there was Roy Keane – now Britain’s most expensive footballer – repaying a large slice of his £3.75million transfer fee by slotting home the winner at the far post.

As Keane slid full length in celebration towards the corner flag the scene behind him summed up the differing emotions. Reds joyously dancing behind enemy lines while Blues stood aghast, unable to believe what they’d seen. It was derby day in a nutshell.

The date: November 10, 1994
The venue: Old Trafford
The score: Manchester United 5 Manchester City 0

Just over five years had passed since the infamous 'Maine Road massacre', with United fans everywhere desperately craving revenge.

It came on a passionate Thursday night in M16 in front of a seething mass of Reds rejoicing. Step forward Andrei Kanchelskis.

City had come to Old Trafford boldly boasting two wingers and a plan to attack the Double winners, but messrs Beagrie and Summerbee were no match for the jet-heeled Kanchelskis.

His searing pace simply destroyed the overmatched Blue rearguard as United produced a scintillating display of attacking and counter-attacking football.

Eric Cantona started the rout, blasting home the opener after perfectly controlling a magnificent Kanchelskis through ball.

Then the Russian himself took centre stage, adding a second and then a third before Mark Hughes got in on the act.

And when Kanchelskis exploded into the path of a Cantona lay-off and beat Simon Tracey at the second attempt, revenge and humiliation was complete.

It could have been even worse for City as United created and spurned a host of other opportunities.

But five was enough, more than enough. The 'Maine Road Massacre' was now joined in footballing folklore by the 'Demolition Derby'.

The date: February 18, 1996
The venue: Old Trafford
The Score: Manchester United 2 Manchester City 1

"You don’t win anything with kids," said Alan Hansen famously on the opening day of the 1995-96 Premier League season.

The TV pundit gave this damning verdict after seeing a youthful United – sans the departed Kanchelskis, Hughes and Paul Ince – beaten 3-1 at Aston Villa.

Fast forward just under six months though, and those very same ‘kids’ were in prime position to give Alex Ferguson his second league and cup double.

They faced City in the fifth round of the FA Cup in a Sunday afternoon showdown on national television.

Around 10,000 Blues made the journey out to Stretford in hope rather than expectation, but those hopes rose considerably when Uwe Rosler gave them an early lead by chipping Peter Schmeichel.

Then fate intervened, as United levelled six minutes before half-time in bizarre circumstances that even Stephen King may struggle to explain.

United won a corner on their left and as the ball came into the box City defender Michael Frontzeck and United forward Eric Cantona challenged for the ball in the area.

All of a sudden referee Alan Wilkie pointed to the penalty spot, leaving both sets of players and a 50,000 crowd bemused. The “penalty that never was” or the “phantom penalty” – call it what you will – turned the game as Cantona slotted home the equalizer.

City manager Alan Ball unsurprisingly described the decision as a “shocker”, while even United’s Lee Sharpe admitted: “If it had happened to us we’d have felt a little hard done by.” Both were arguably guilty of understatement.

From that moment on, hard though City fought on an afternoon when the football was raw and uncompromising, the end result had a feeling of inevitability about it.

And so it was that Sharpe became the hero of the hour, sweeping home a late winner after Ryan Giggs had fashioned the room for Phil Neville to deliver a telling cross.

The villain though was Wilkie who will always be prime suspect to City fans. It remains a derby moment shrouded in mystery.

The date: September 20, 2009
The venue: Old Trafford
The score: Manchester United 4 Manchester City 3

‘Welcome To Manchester’ the signs said, painted laser blue and bearing the face of one Carlos Tevez – newly moved across the city from Old Trafford to Eastlands.

Tevez’s £25million defection from United to City completed a busy summer of transfer business for the moneybags Blues – backed by their wealthy new owners.

Their dealings created such a buzz around Manchester that Sir Alex Ferguson famously described them as “noisy neighbours”.

This frenzied backdrop set up perfectly a derby that lived up to every expectation on an incredible Sunday afternoon at Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney fired United ahead inside two minutes, before Tevez himself capitalized on a defensive slip to set Gareth Barry up for the leveller.

Into the second half and the action grew ever more breathless as Darren Fletcher nodded United in front again only for Craig Bellamy to level brilliantly at 2-2.

Fletcher appeared to have won it for the Red Devils when another header – again from a Ryan Giggs cross – gave them a 3-2 lead.

But as the game moved towards stoppage time Rio Ferdinand ludicrously gave the ball away and Bellamy eventually raced clear to beat Ben Foster at his near post.

By now Ferguson was livid – somehow his team had blown a lead not once, not twice but three times.

Not to worry though Sir Alex, help was at hand. Or what opposition fans now call “Fergie Time”.

When the fourth official held up a board signifying five additional minutes, it meant City still had work to do. When those five minutes passed though it looked like a famous point was safe.

Play continued though, and Michael Owen – a summer free transfer in contrast to all those big-money Blue buys - latched on to a magnificent Giggs pass before slotting it into the City net.

Cue mayhem around Old Trafford as Fergie danced the sort of jig that you normally only see from granddads at wedding receptions. Meanwhile, City boss Mark Hughes couldn’t believe it.

For United it was a derby victory in the sweetest of circumstances. For City meanwhile, it was the ultimate agony.

The date: January 27, 2010
The venue: Old Trafford
The score: Manchester United 3 Manchester City 1 (Aggregate: 4-3)

The dust had only just settled after that famous 4-3 game when the two Manchester titans were drawn to face each other in the two-legged semi-finals of the Carling Cup.

When Tevez - now public enemy number one in the red half of the city - netted twice to give City a 2-1 success in the opener at Eastlands, everything was set up for a high-octane sequel at Old Trafford.

But before that the action moved several thousand miles across the Atlantic to the 'Mad Hatter' bar in New York City. Why you ask? What has a bar in New York to do with a Manchester derby?

It was there a few days before the second leg, with TV cameras on hand, that City chief executive Garry Cook famously promised his club' Stateside fans that the Blues would complete the job and take their place in the Wembley final.

As bulletin board material goes you couldn't get much better, and the scene was set fair for hostilities to resume at Old Trafford.

The first half ended goalless, but veteran Paul Scholes drove United in front on the night and levelled the aggregate scores. And then Michael Carrick added a second to put the Red Devils within touching distance of Wembley.

Tevez though hadn't read the script, and popped up 14 minutes from time to level the aggregate scores with his third goal of the tie.

Extra-time looked a certainty but wait a minute, what about 'Fergie Time?'

And so once again the final act of a derby drama was played out in the final minute of added time.

Giggs teased and tormented on the right before crossing into the six-yard box. And there was Wayne Rooney leaping to power a header past the defenceless Shay Given.

66,000 United fans erupted into ecstasy at another late, late show, while for the traveling City fans it was once again a painful case of deja Blue.

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

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