The Manchester Derby: Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue
Sunday afternoon bore witness to two big matches in the Premier League. Two top four hopefuls took on two title contenders in a day of what promised to be thrilling football.
And it didn't disappoint.
Chelsea took on, and ultimately dispatched their London rivals Tottenham in the day's later kick-off, but the show had already been stolen by the events at Old Trafford where Manchester United battled Manchester City.
It was the most important derby in recent memory as, for the first time in a long time, both sides had ambitions of success and squads of comparable quality.
Couple that with the various sub-plots in place, from ex-United player Mark Hughes vying for mind-game supremacy with former boss Sir Alex Ferguson to Carlos Tevez's involvement after being "welcomed to Manchester."
So often the anticipation that precedes these matches is followed by an anti-climax, but in this instance that was far from applicable.
City's summer of spending had been widely condemned but Mark Hughes didn't care. He was still enjoying his, and City's honeymoon period.
The match against United was the biggest test they would face to see whether or not they could hang with the big boys.
The controversial thriller against Arsenal suggested they could, and their performance on Sunday did nothing to contradict that, despite walking away with nothing.
The difference largely came from something old and something new.
The "something old" came in the form of the inimitable Ryan Giggs, whose marriage with United seems to be getting better as the years roll on.
Despite being 35 and in his 18th year at United, Giggs put in a man of the match performance, proving he was every bit the equal of the "dream team" City had assembled.
His magnificent pass in literally the last second of the game not only summed up his majestic performance, but also gave way for the "something new" - Michael Owen.
Much was made of his summer transfer to United, mainly due to the fact he shot to stardom at arch-rivals Liverpool.
Some called him a traitor, some said he was a mercenary, and others said he had done the right thing, but one thing everyone seemed to agree on was that it was a great transfer for every party directly involved.
United got a world-class striker without spending any money and Michael Owen got one more shot at the big time, and a chance to make the flight for the 2010 World Cup.
His goal after it looked as if Craig Bellamy had rescued a point for the visitors made him an instant hero in the red side on Manchester, no easy task for a former Liverpool idol.
Who'd have thought that Gary Neville and Sir Alex Ferguson would be celebrating a Michael Owen goal at club level so enthusiastically?
Who'd have thought that Owen would be sprinting into the corner of Old Trafford after scoring a winner and not have the 75,000 fans in attendance baying for his blood?
It was a bizarre sight to say the least.
The "something borrowed" got a very different reaction.
Carlos Tevez, who was applauded off the same pitch and heard his name chanted by every United fan just four months ago, was booed every time he touched the ball.
Owen had gone from villain to hero; Tevez had gone from hero to villain.
He so nearly had the last laugh, though.
The work-rate and passion that made him a cult-hero at Old Trafford almost made him public enemy number one at the same venue.
He caught Ben Foster in possession, leading to Gareth Barry's equaliser, and came within a few inches of getting on the score-sheet himself, clipping the outside of the post when clean through.
"Something blue" could also be attributed to Tevez. Once a red, now a blue; a mantra Mark Hughes could also adopt. Or it could be given to the now infamous "Welcome to Manchester" sign, which showed banter in football is not dead, but is seriously frowned upon.
But the something blue is, predictably Manchester City. Their mood must have reflected their kits after Owen's late goal, and the controversy that surrounded the result can't have helped.
Hughes bemoaned the time-keeping for Owen's goal, although the one-second extra time played was entirely reasonable given the position United were in on the pitch.
All in all, it was one of the best Manchester derbies ever, and proof that City can indeed hang with the big boys in the league.
Would they have fared better had any of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho, or Roque Santa Cruz been available?
No-one can answer that conclusively, although the quality of those players suggest that it may have been.
If one thing can be sure, however, it's that the stormy, tumultuous, and long-lived relationship between United and City will not end here. In fact, the latest, and possibly the most exciting chapter, has only just begun.
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