Forlorn Manchester United fans sat around the Stadium of Light struggling to comprehend the rise of their rivals, but they knew that Sir Alex Ferguson was already strategically planning a fresh assault for next year’s campaign.
But this season, the Scottish manager has guided United to the brink of their 20th league title. They have won game after game, whilst Manchester City have struggled to live up to the hype that comes with being champions, and have regularly dropped points throughout the season, sometimes against much inferior opposition like QPR, Sunderland and Liverpool.
With this impending triumph United have reasserted their supremacy in Manchester, but did Roberto Mancini’s men actually ever overtake them? And are they destined to forever live in their shadows?
Unfortunately for the Citizens, the answer to the latter is yes, and there are numerous reasons for United’s stranglehold over their rivals.
For decades, United have repeatedly added to their trophy collection by winning trophy after trophy. But it wasn’t always like that.
At the turn of the 20th century, City were the most dominant side in the north, having become the first Manchester club to win a major honour, by picking up the 1904 FA Cup.
United didn’t do too badly themselves, winning the domestic title in 1907-08 and 1910-11, but this was then followed by a long barren spell for both Manchester clubs.
However, City entered a prosperous period in the 1930s, and they even reached two FA Cup finals in succession, in a time when the competition was deemed on par with the First Division. They lost to Everton in 1933 but claimed the Cup by beating Portsmouth the following year.
City then won the First Division for the first time in 1937 but were then relegated the following year despite scoring more goals than any other team in the league.
After the war, the arrival of Matt Busby at United signalled a new era of glory for the club, which started with their FA Cup victory in 1948.
The Scot remoulded United and gave them a vibrant and attacking personality that is still imprinted in their DNA.
His Babes became loved around the globe thanks to their youthful vigour and abundance of talent, and the tragedy in Munich in 1958 created a global fanbase for United because their style of play was adored so much, by so many.
This horror has always meant that European football resonates deeply with Manchester United fans and when Busby and surviving member Bobby Charlton led the Red Devils to the trophy a decade later, after defeating Benfica, soccer viewers around the world couldn’t help but be pleased by the outcome.
Within this period, City themselves had their own period of success under the leadership of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. FA Cup honours in 1956 and 1969 were combated with 1970 and 1976 League Cup glories, the 1968 First Division title and the 1970 Cup Winners Cup too.
But they were still firmly cocooned under the shadow of United’s efforts.
With Ferguson at the helm, Manchester United have gone on to claim even more riches using the traditions that were supplemented by Busby, whilst City have continued to fluctuate between the leagues.
The small victories they have claimed have come against United, and any points that they have collected against the Red Devils have been celebrated like championships.
But the money of Sheikh Mansour changed the footballing landscape and helped to propel City into contention for the Premier League alongside their more illustrious Mancunian compatriots. United fans, though, are quick to state that any success they garner is based on hollow grounds.
City have now started to use their ill gotten wealth to build a dynasty of their own. After claiming the FA Cup in 2011, they won their first Premier League trophy 12 months ago, but they have now failed to build, and even an FA Cup victory against Wigan in May would still feel like a failure.
Manchester United will thrive on City’s attempts to dethrone them, and having defeated Jack Walker’s Blackburn, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal and Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, they’ll feel confident about quashing them.