After last weekend’s spectacular Manchester derby and the various exclamations that it was the best ever, A Different League takes a look at the definitive top five Manchester derbies. Over the years there have been dozens of terrific duels between City and United. For this reason some classics have had to be omitted from this list but the following are five of the most entertaining and memorable of all time.
5 – Manchester City 5-1 Manchester United – September 23, 1989
Many United fans have long forgotten that this match ever took place but for City the thrashing marks one of their sweetest moments in modern times. With the game even on 10 minutes, crowd trouble forced play to be temporarily stopped. When the match was restarted City immediately took advantage of a United defence whose concentration appeared to have been affected by the disruption. At a time when the difference in quality between the two teams was not as marked as it would later be, Sir Alex Ferguson’s side found themselves 3-0 down at half-time. The fiery Scot then proceeded to deliver one of his trademark dressing room rants and his tactics appeared to have worked when on 50 minutes United’s hero of the day and current City manager, Mark Hughes, got one back for the Red Devils with an overhead kick. But the Reds’ celebrations were short-lived when eight minutes later David Oldfield put City’s victory beyond doubt and the day was capped off in emphatic style when boyhood City fan Andy Hinchcliffe scored a memorable fifth. At the final whistle chants of “We want Fergie out!” which were common at the time, echoed from large sections of the away fans.
4 – Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United – November 7, 1993
Once again Maine Road played host to yet another classic derby. Only four years had passed since United’s drubbing at the hands of their neighbours but much had changed in the footballing world. The Devils were reigning Premier League champions and a volatile young Frenchman was just beginning to make a name for himself at Old Trafford. The Reds were caught by surprise however, when two headed goals from Niall Quinn made it 2-0 to the Blues and a half-time Ferguson tantrum inevitable. This time the manager got it right and his team duly responded in a dramatic second half. Lacklustre City defending was to blame for the first goal as Eric Cantona scored a simple finish to put the Reds back in the game. Cantona didn’t have to wait long for his second after a superb low cross from Ryan Giggs was tapped in by the Frenchman for the equaliser. But the goal of the game was always destined to be the winner and so it proved when Roy Keane arrived late in the box to finish off a beautifully crafted United move. The joyous Reds would go on to win the Premier League that season and Man-of-the-Match, Eric Cantona, would become a true United legend.
3 – Manchester City 3-1 Manchester United – November 9, 2002
Having been promoted back to the Premiership, City were struggling in the bottom half of the league coming into this derby match. United on the other hand were chasing their eighth Premier League title – enough to make any City fan sick to the pit of his stomach. So when on four minutes new signing Nicolas Anelka made it 1-0 to the Blues with a tap-in, Maine Road erupted with euphoria. United fans on the other hand are used to their team coming back from behind and sensed that an equaliser could not be too far away. They were proved right just three minutes later when the predatory Ole Gunnar Solskjaer equalised in typical fashion. It looked like it could only go United’s way from there but incredibly, in the 25th minute, Gary Neville ensured his role as villain when he gave the ball away in his own box and Shaun Goater put away the loose ball. The Blues’ fans then proceeded to chant their goalscorer’s name: “feed the Goat and he will score!” Sure enough just five minutes into the second half Eyal Berkovic fed the Goat and the former United player chipped Fabien Barthez to wrap up a glorious day for Manchester City.
2. Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City – April 27, 1974
Old Trafford this time and the oldest match to make the list. This game is known as the ‘Denis Law game’ and is famous for the only goal of a match which saw the Red Devils condemned to relegation just six years after winning the European Cup. Law is one of the few men to have played for both Manchester clubs but it was at Old Trafford that he made his name as a prolific centre forward. By 1973 however, he was out of favour at United and was given a free transfer to City. The derby took place on the last day of the season and aside from the goal, was not a particularly dramatic or entertaining game. When Law scored the winner he refused to celebrate out of respect for his former club. He believed that his goal had relegated the Reds and would have perhaps been consoled by the fact that United were doomed irrespectively. Yet with so much attention paid to the circumstances surrounding the match, the quality of the goal is often overlooked. Some wonderful teamwork culminated in a deft back-heel by Law, expertly deceiving the keeper. The match remains enshrined in Manchester derby folklore.
1 – Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City – September 20, 2009
With so little time having passed since this game took place, its position as the very best Manchester derby may or may not stand the test of time. However, it was an undeniably spectacular match which will be remembered for many years by all who watched it. City came into the game on great form. Full of expensive signings, the now richest club in the world finally felt free from United’s shadow. But it was the champions, United, who got off to the quicker start with Wayne Rooney firing in from close range. An unforgivable mistake by Ben Foster soon gifted City the equaliser and the match took off from there. United went ahead