The Manchester derby now has truly global significance, with two of the best teams in England duelling it out for the highest stakes.
At a local level, it’s still all about those mystical “bragging rights”, but recent Manchester derbies seem to have had something more significant than just local pride at stake since City came to dine at football’s top table.
These 15 derbies are unashamedly biased towards the recent games that I have been lucky enough to see in the flesh, but there are nods to the past. As ever, we’d love to hear from you about what you think have been some of the most significant Manchester derbies.
United 0-1 City 27 April 1974
Denis Law backheeled his way into immortality for City fans, with United dropping into the old Second Division, although results elsewhere meant they were already down regardless of Law’s goal. Nevertheless, this was unthinkable for the club that had conquered Europe just six years before, and Law did not celebrate, with a very 1970s pitch invasion curtailing proceedings for good measure.
City 4-0 United 30 January 1976
City swept their rivals aside in the League Cup semi-final on what was, in hindsight, a historically significant night for the club. The talismanic Colin Bell suffered a career-shortening knee injury, and by the time he came back two years later neither he nor City were ever quite the same again. They did go on to claim the League Cup, but they were about to enter a trophy-less wilderness for 35 years.
City 5-1 United 23 September 1989
Mel Machin’s young City side destroyed United at Maine Road and the balance of power seemed to moving to the Blue half of Manchester. Alex Ferguson had won nothing in three years and was under pressure. Within weeks, Machin was gone and Fergie guided United to the FA Cup to begin a glorious period for the Reds.
City 2-3 United 23 November 1993
Happy days, it seemed with the Blues two goals up at the break. But this was Eric Cantona in his pomp, and thanks to two goals from the French enigma, normal service had resumed by the end.
City 4-1 United 14 March 2004
The first derby in the (then) City of Manchester Stadium saw City, most notably in the diminutive shape of Shaun Wright-Phillips, tweak the nose of their now mega successful rivals in a gleeful east Manchester.
City 1-0 United 19 August 2007
Backed by Thaksin Shinawatra’s money, Sven Goran Eriksson pieced together a new City team that shocked everyone, including themselves, with a vibrant win courtesy of a long-range effort from Geovanni. One of Sven’s new buys, the Brazilian faded from view quickly afterwards but City fans will remember him fondly for this.
United 1-2 City 10 February 2008
Held on the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster, fears that City fans would disrupt a minute’s silence were proved to be totally wrong. After that, the Blues got stuck in and came away from Old Trafford with a win for the first time in 34 years, with Benjani and Darius Vassell on the score sheet, and Blues fans thanked at the end for their impeccable behaviour by the United PA announcer.
United 4-3 City 20 September 2009
City looked to have got away with a draw in a pulsating encounter when Craig Bellamy equalised at the end of the 90 minutes. However, the concept of “Fergie time” came into play and deep into stoppage time Michael Owen popped up to win it for United. Former Red Mark Hughes, in charge of City by now, was incandescent, but he never had the chance to avenge this.
City 0-0 United 10 November 2010
Sometimes you say “I was there”. Other times you say “I wish I wasn’t”, and this was one of them. Mancini’s City set their stall out to not lose in a grindingly negative fashion. Mind you, when we watched this kind of thing from Italy, everyone raved about it.
United 2-1 12 February 2011
Another vibrant derby was settled by an astonishing bicycle kick from Wayne Rooney. The sound you could hear was not an earthquake, it was the sound of jaws dropping all over the world.
City 1-0 United 16 April 2011
The FA Cup semi-final, and Mancini orchestrated a tactical masterclass to outfox United at Wembley. It should have been by more than just Yaya Toure’s goal, and Balotelli, yes Balotelli, was outstanding. United’s frustrations were summed up by Paul Scholes’s red card near the end.
United 1-6 City 23 October 2011
Proof, were it needed, that City were big players now. Astonishing, with City scoring three in “Fergie time”. Oh, the irony!
City 1-0 United 30 April 2012
Vincent Kompany’s towering header put City within touching distance of the title, although they nearly handed it back to United a few weeks later.
City 2-3 United 9 December 2012
Robin Van Persie, courted by City but destined for United, ensured more last-gasp drama when his free kick rifled into Joe Hart’s net. Mancini held Hart responsible, according the Daily Mail’s Ian Ladyman a few months later, and gave him a blast of the hairdryer a la Fergie.
United 1-2 City 8 April 2013
The title was destined for Old Trafford, but City proved they could still mix it with the best. They put up a canny fightback after Kompany’s own goal, in what proved to be Mancini’s Manchester derby swansong.