As intense as these battles are for the players, the fans are the ones living and dying with every touch.
People toss the word "hate" around so casually that it has become a punchline.
Of all the silly ways people talk about hate, sports fandom is either at or really close to the top of the list. Do Arsenal supporters really hate Tottenham Hotspur and their fans? Do Boston Red Sox fanatics really hate the New York Yankees and their global following?
You have to hope not; because when people actually act on these trivial feelings, tragedies happen.
Sadly, supposedly rational people continue to say stupid things about City, United and their continuing battle for bragging rights.
"I hate United worse than my worst enemy. Worse than anything," said City supporter Kasim Zakaria according to Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times.
That Zakaria is surely not alone in that sentiment is a sad commentary on fan attitudes. Which often shape fan behavior in terrible ways.
In the spirit of conciliation, here are five things about United that, if City fans were ever truthful with themselves, they would concede that they like about the Red Devils.
And don't worry if you find yourself nodding at one of these slides. Your secrets are safe here.
The Theatre of Dreams, where nightmares are born.
There is nothing like a crosstown rivalry.
Have you ever traveled from Boston to New York? Or Los Angeles to San Francisco? How about from London to Manchester?
None of those journeys are particularly difficult or even all that long. But the effort and the expense attached to such travel tend to sap the competitive spirit in even the hardiest of fans.
That is not a problem with Manchester City and Manchester United.
The distance from M11 3FF (Etihad Stadium) to M16 0RA (Old Trafford) is 5.2 miles according to Google Maps.
You know what they say about familiarity and breeding. When the other guys are within walking distance, the territorial instinct kicks in with primordial fervor.
It's why perennial collisions between the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, the Duke Blue Devils and the North Carolina Tar Heels, and the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins all pop like they do.
City fans complain a lot about United and their supporters. But honestly, if United were a London side, the rivalry's heat would likely not exist.
Sir Alex tormented the Sky Blues, but they'll miss him now that he is gone.
Sir Alex Ferguson inspired many emotions in the City faithful during his lengthy tenure at the helm for United. If we were to rank them, "admiration" would be pretty far down the list.
But now that he has retired, City fans are apt to feel a gnawing pang of disappointment when he is not there to prowl United's touch line against City twice a season.
The Telegraph put together a nifty retrospective of the 15 (15!) City managers that Ferguson saw come and go in his time at United. It is worth perusing just for the shocking horror of the clothes those ill-fated City gaffers sported.
No sports fan in his right mind could understate the pure greatness of Ferguson's United record. The man led United to 13 Premier League titles and an astonishing 527 victories.
Which is why, when City stole their first league title in 44 years right out from under Ferguson's squad—in "Fergie Time", no less—it was all the sweeter.
Roberto Mancini's flappy hands at Sir Alex in the derby were not half bad, either.
So go ahead and try to work up a proper dislike for David Moyes if you must.
For Rooney's sake, I hope Moyes did not spike that bottle.
For a club with City's tortured history, its litany of rogues through the years is pretty tepid. And its current squad is downright somnambulant.
Ever since Mario Balotelli and his fireworks left town, City's prominent players have fallen in line as high-functioning corporate robots who rarely say or do the wrong thing.
Even when they do say something controversial, they do it like schoolgirls—behind backs and anonymously.
No one on City's roster can compare to United lighting rod Wayne Rooney when it comes to the attention he draws to his side.
Granted, it is not always pretty:
- Asking to leave United to play for Chelsea, per Phil McNulty of BBC Sport, is a bit disgraceful.
- The hair thing is always a worry.
- Rooney is not apt to be dispensing marital advice any time soon.
- While being a man of passion is no crime, discretion is always the better part of valor.
Even if City fans only admire Rooney because of his ongoing personal vendettas against common decency and common sense, they admire him just the same.
And don't kid yourself. If Rooney somehow ended up in sky blue, they'd sing his name at the Etihad.
There is precedent for that sort of thing.
Scouting and player development are all well and good, but eventually you have to spend money to win.
City faithful ought to begrudgingly like and respect United because United showed their club what it took to win the Premier League and contend on the global stage.
Granted, City being City, it took them several decades and the miraculous intervention of an oil oligarch to learn the lesson. But the Sky Blues got there all the same.
Being the little engine that could is fun sometimes. But ask an Everton supporter (or David Moyes for that matter) how much joy one can really derive from repetitively overachieving to finish sixth in the table.
Winning isn't everything. It isn't even the only thing.
But it beats the everliving excrement out of losing.
City fans did not much enjoy hearing the taunts from their United counterparts all those long years.
Now that the sides are closer to equals, though, City supporters can perhaps finally understand what United was up to all that time.
When City face United, it just means so much more.
To paraphrase Voltaire, if United did not exist it would be necessary to invent them.
Chelsea is a great football club and a worthy adversary. Wins against them are satisfying, losses against them sting.
Same for Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Liverpool and on down the line in the Premier League.
But let's face it: Where City is concerned, nothing but nothing compares to beating United.
That is why a score line like Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City resonates the way it does. Because United is so good, the opportunities to throttle them are rarer than an eclipse. Especially at Old Trafford.
City fans often decry their fate. In truth, though, it is nobler to support a club that needs all the help it can get rather than front-running with a club that often gets help it does not really need.
If it never rained, you would never appreciate the sunshine.