Manchester City visit Old Trafford later in the month and the prospect fills most United fans with a feeling of dread akin to a starting XI containing William Prunier. After a couple of maulings in recent seasons, some supporters were actually grateful for the penalty shoot-out defeat in the semi-final of the League Cup against Sunderland for fear of embarrassment at Wembley against Manuel Pellegrini’s side. How far we done fell.
In recent years, the Manchester derby has become an event with truly global significance. City, backed by the wealth of Sheikh Mansour, have started to challenge their neighbours’ hegemony, even managing to secure their first title in almost 50 years.
Despite the fact that United had the upper hand for decades, the rivalry was never less than intense. City always tried to ensure that if they could produce one good performance a season it would be against their crosstown rivals.
There have been some memorable tussles between the sides over the years. Here are 10 of the best ones.
March 1968: United 1 City 3
This victory turned the title race in City’s favour, and they were eventually crowned champions in May, two points ahead of their neighbours. Not to be outdone, United won the European Cup the same season and ensured the red half of Manchester had something to shout about.
April 1974: United 0 City 1
Six minutes from time, Denis Law scored a cheeky back-heel against the very club at which he’d achieved legendary status. While his teammates celebrated wildly, the man known as “The King” at Old Trafford seemed aghast at the possibility that his goal might have relegated his former employers.
As it turned out, results elsewhere would have seen United go down anyway but certain City supporters have never let facts get in the way of a good story.
September 1989: City 5 United 1
Alex Ferguson’s side were torn apart at Maine Road, and many felt the Scotsman’s days at the helm were numbered. Mark Hughes scored a stunning goal late on, but it was scant consolation for the United faithful.
Fergie would later describe the game as the “lowest point” of his career, but it was the City manager, Mel Machin, who was sacked a few weeks later. Ferguson stayed, won the FA Cup that season and the rest is glorious history.
November 1993: City 2 United 3
City went in two goals up at the break, but this was Ferguson’s magnificent first double-winning side, and it was never going to be as simple as that.
Two goals from Eric Cantona and one from Roy Keane saw the visitors complete an unlikely turnaround. With players that good in the team, no situation was ever truly hopeless.
November 1994: United 5 City 0
A year on and things were a lot more comfortable for the reigning champions. Eight days after receiving a thrashing at the hands of Barcelona, it was United’s turn to dish out a hiding.
Andrei Kanchelskis scored a hat-trick and inspired his club to their biggest ever derby win. The Russian winger would later play for City and is the only player in history to have scored in each of the Glasgow, Manchester and Merseyside derbies.
November 2002: City 3 United 1
“Feed the Goat and he will score” sang the City fans on a day to forget for Gary Neville and Fabian Barthez. The last ever Maine Road derby saw the home side triumph 3-1, with Shaun Goater scoring twice.
September 2009: United 4 City 3
One of the best Premier League games in living memory, City levelled after falling behind three times on a surreal afternoon at Old Trafford, before finally losing the game at the death.
Craig Bellamy got a brace while pantomime villain Carlos Tevez scored City’s other goal. For all his flaws, Michael Owen did produce one moment of magic in a United shirt. His winner deep into stoppage time will never be forgotten.
February 2011: United 2 City 1
This one was all about the winning goal.
Just months after requesting a transfer and leaving the United fans with the very real fear that he might join City, Wayne Rooney’s stunning bicycle kick was a hugely significant moment for the club. Even the celebration, turning his back on the away support and adopting a Christ-like pose, seemed laden with meaning.
October 2011: United 1 City 6
Days after setting off fireworks inside his house, Mario Balotelli inspired City to a resounding victory, even more significant when one considers they ended up winning the league on goal difference. This was the same day the Italian striker revealed his “Why Always Me?” T -shirt, an afternoon to forget for the home fans at Old Trafford.
December 2012: City 2 United 3
Two early goals from Rooney put United in control, but City fought back in the second half and pulled it back to 2-2.
It looked to all the world as though the home team would grab a winner, but United got a late free-kick and up stepped Robin van Persie, the striker who had been courted by City over the summer. Samir Nasri ducked and the ball curled past Joe Hart’s despairing dive, much to the delight of the away fans behind the goal.