by Kevin Henning
23rd September 1989 – City 5 United 1
Due to City’s spell in Division 2, the fixture had not been played for almost two years (testimonials aside) and having spent a fortune re-building his side, Alex Ferguson’s United were hot favourites to claim bragging rights. City’s line-up included no fewer than 5 products of their youth academy and 4 of those were local lads. Played on a gloriously sunny afternoon, the hordes of Mancunians poured into Moss Side in their thousands creating a tension filled, hostile atmosphere.
Local referee Neil Midgley led out the teams to a cacophony of noise from all sides of Maine Road. The Kippax and Platt Lane stands packed to the rafters. United started well and looked set to put City in their place. The match though, was disrupted when violence broke out in the North Stand. A number of Reds had acquired tickets for the home end and were intent on causing mayhem. It was the worst thing they could do. City fans fought back and drove the trouble causers forwards onto the edge of the playing surface, Midgley took the teams off until order was restored and Mel Machin calmed his players down and sent them back out with a new intent.
At this point, my old man made a decision for me that I will always be grateful for. As an 11 year old lad, I’d never witnessed football aggro on this scale and only wanted to go home. I imagined walking a gauntlet back to my Dad’s car with fighting all around after the match and thought it best to escape while everyone was inside. The decision was vindicated within minutes. First David Oldfield smashed in from White’s daisy cutter cross and whilst a still clearly shell-shocked United defence were trying to compose themselves, Paul Lake caused more carnage in the area and the ball fell to Trevor Morley to poke home to make it 2-0. Before half-time, a sweeping City move was finished off by a diving header from Scouser Ian Bishop. The match seemed to be over before the break.
United came out with after half-time looking to get back into the game as soon as possible and a spectacular scissor kick by future City manager Mark Hughes had blue nerves jangling again. City legend Paul Lake grasped the nettle though and went on a one man mission to finish off United’s comeback. Drawing Jim Leighton after a lung bursting run from the middle of the pitch before a simple pass for Oldfield’s tap-in, Lake’s inspiration earned him a man of the match award. The Platt Lane began to empty but the goal of the day was still to come. Ian Bishop’s killer pass was allowed to bounce twice by David White on the right wing, who then crossed on the half-volley. Andy Hinchcliffe’s bullet header and five fingered salute celebration in front of the Platt Lane cleared the few Reds that remained.
The walk back to the car that I’d so dreaded earlier in the day actually became one of my most cherished memories of Maine Road. It was like a sky blue carnival had hit Moss Side with City fans hanging out of car sunroofs and window, tooting their horns and playing ‘The Boys in Blue’ over and over again. Alex Ferguson said of the occasion in his autobiography that he returned home and lay on his bed with his head under the pillows for a few hours that night. I went to bed dreaming that every derby would be like this, the nightmare truth was there would be a 13 year wait for another City win.
9th November 2002 – City 3 United 1
After 13 years of Derby hell for City fans, Maine Road had one last chance to send the old enemy home from Moss Side with slapped legs. In the time that had passed since the 5-1 annihalation, United had dominated English football whilst City had fallen down two divisions and come back. Again, United were the odds-on favourites for this one. The confidence coming from the Red camp was summed up in the morning papers where Gary Neville had spoke of his determination to never lose a Derby. Whether or not Kevin Keegan pinned the back page to the dressing room wall or not I don’t know but there was a determination from the start from the home side. Neville continued to make an arse of himself in the tunnel immediately prior to kick-off when he completely shunned United’s legendary keeper Peter Schmeichel who was playing his one season in goal for City. His day was about to go downhill rapidly.
Early in the first half, Nicolas Anelka robbed Rio Wobblegob of the ball and set Shaun Goater loose. Anelka continued into the box and was on hand when Goater’s shot was parried by Fabien Barthez to side foot the hosts into the lead. The lead didn’t last long though, Ryan Giggs searched for a Red shirt in the City box and found Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who duly equalised by sliding to meet the ball, lifting it past Schmeichel.
What followed next will live long in the memories of Blues everywhere and will haunt the senior Chuckle Brother for the rest of his days. The late Marc Vivien Foe launched a ball towards Goater but over hit his pass. Gary Neville simply had to play the ball out of defence down the channel but instead tried to be clever by taking on the Bermudan forward. He dithered for too long and watched in horror as Goater robbed the ball and restored City’s lead with a smart finish from an acute angle. The United skipper held his head in his hands as the Blues attempted to raise the four roofs of Maine Road.
The second half began with both teams going for the game deciding goal. Had United scored it, the Derby could have gone either way. Anelka squandered a one-on-one chance early on but the Citizens didn’t have long to wait. Niclas Jensen’s cross field pass was cleverly diverted by Eyal Berkovic into the path of the Goat who drew Barthez before lifting the ball over him and into the United net for his 100th City goal. The North Stand changed their famous “Feed The Goat” chant for a short while and to a man stood on their chairs to boom “Who Let The Goat Out?”.
The final clash at Maine Road ended City’s Derby draught and Gary Neville became the oddest cult hero in Blue history.
10th February 2008 – United 1 City 2
City went in to this Derby having not won at Old Trafford for 34 years. The match was to mark the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster and the build up to the match was dominated by tributes and hopes that City fans would act respectively for such a sombre occasion. United turned out in a 1950’s retro kit without any sort of emblem. City ditched their sponsors to give the game a pure feel.
Prior to the game, Alex Ferguson and City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson laid wreaths on the pitch before an impeccably observed minutes silence for all those who lost their lives on the return journey from Belgrade. Simple red and white and blue and white bar scarves were held aloft during the silence as Mancunians of both red and blue showed the watching world that we can do class when the occasion calls for it.
The game got underway and the City fans recieved their rewards. Joe Hart kept United at bay who had started the brighter and a save from Ryan Giggs kept the score at 0-0. City grew into the game and a ball from Martin Petrov found Stephen Ireland who’s blocked shot fell for Darius Vassell. Now Vassell was never a natural goal-getter and needed two bites of the cherry to put City into the lead. United pressed for an equaliser but it was the Citizens who struck on the brink of half-time. Petrov had tormented United all afternoon and when he crossed from the right wing, debutant Benjani glanced a header home to send his new team in two goals to the good. The missed plane on tranfer deadline day during the previous week was forgotten as the travelling fans embraced him with a spontaneous chorus of “Benjani, whoa, Benjani, whoa, he comes from Zimbabwe, he scored on Derby Day”.
The second half saw United contiue to search for a way back but City were always dangerous on the counter attack. Michael Carrick’s consolation goal came too late for the home side and City completed a league double over United. In front of a worldwide audience, the Blues had shown their true colours. Fantastic behaviour from the away section and a confident display on the field, City left Old Trafford with their heads held high.
16th April 2011 – City 1 United 0
Until tonight, probably the biggest Manchester Derby there has ever been. The Scousers, Sheffield and North London had all had their days out in the sunshine at Wembley and now finally, England’s second city had the nation’s undivided attention. An enormous occasion for both clubs, City desperate to end a 35 year wait for a trophy which would lead to the tearing down of the infamous banner adorning the Stretford End, for United the chance to keep the Blue juggernaut juddering along in uncertainty for another year.
The journey started early for me. Setting off from Hull at 5:15 in the morning, I had to call in at my Red brother’s house in Eccles before meeting my Dad at Knutsford Services, ditching my car and heading for Watford and the Wembley Central train. The motorway was awash with Sky Blue. Admittedly we saw plenty of Reds making their way but pulling into Watford Gap Services, the Blues outnumbered Reds easily.
On arriving in London, news began to circulate that Wembley Way had been the scene of outbreaks of violence. Albeit in a City pub, fans were talking of Blues being attacked on the most famous walkway in British football. I made a quick decision to avoid it and kept the rumours from my 10 year old lad. The atmosphere was evil and we saw Blues misbehaving as well as Reds.
The match began with United looking to put the game to bed early. Dimitar Berbatov was guilty of missing a couple of glorious chances although Joe Hart’s goalkeeping was the main reason he failed with the first. City began to get a foothold in the match and Mario Balotelli tested Edwin van der Sar before half time. The teams went in deadlocked at the break and emerged knowing that the next 45 minutes would provide bragging rights for a long, long time back home.
A mix-up in the United defence early in the second period saw Yaya Toure drive at Nemanja Vidic and slide the ball under van der Sar. The City contingent, still aching from an exhausting pre-match ‘Poznan’, erupted. From the first minute to long after the final whistle, they never stopped chanting, singing and roaring Mancini’s men to victory. There was time for Paul Scholes to lose the plot and recieve a red card before the whistle was blown and City were booking return journeys for 28 days later.
At full time, Mario Balotelli’s celebrations were too much for Anderson and Rio Ferdinand who spat their dummies out and caused a completely unnecessary scene on the Wembley pitch.
The Citizens supporters sang long and hard as the team and coaching staff acted out an impromtu ‘Poznan’. Manchester City went on to win the F.A.Cup to end the decades of hurt. It was made all the sweeter for beating the old enemy en route.
23rd October 2011 – United 1 City 6
And so to the most obvious and recent City victory over United. Both sides had started the Premier League season extremely well and were the top two going into the Manchester Derby for the first time in years. The weekend’s headlines had been all about Mario Balotelli whose home had been the unlikely venue for a premature firework display. Roberto Mancini kept faith with the Italian and sent City out in an attacking formation. Alex Ferguson’s claim a couple of weeks beforehand that the Reds had played “all the top teams” was about to come right back and bite his Govan rear.
The first half saw City begin slowly but gradually grow into the game. Ashley Young practised his theatrics and Wayne Rooney looked threatening. Midway through the opening period, David Silva and James Milner combined to set up Balotelli for a sublime side footed finish from the edge of the Stretford End penalty area. One of the most iconic celebrations in Premier League history followed when Mario raised his shirt to reveal a t-shirt printed with the legendary “Why Always Me?”.
United were stunned and were visibly rocked on their heels shortly after half-time when Jonny Evans was sent off for a professional foul. Balotelli doubled City ‘s lead shortly after and the game began to run away from the hosts. Sergio Aguero made it 0-3 within ten minutes and the game was almost out of United’s reach. Darren Fletcher pegged one back in the last ten minutes and I admit that briefly, I envisaged another remarkable comeback from the Reds. There were more goals to come but the match was only going to get worse for the home supporters.
As the game drifted into injury time, a City corner was eventually turned in by Edin Dzeko. David Silva was played through and slid the ball between the legs of David de Gea to make it 1-5 but the goal of the game and the pass of the season were still to come. City have previous for saving the best for last when thrashing their neighbours as the 5-1 victory above described. The ball was headed towards David Silva in his own half, Silva controlled it with his first touch and with his second, volleyed through the United defence perfectly for Dzeko to run onto and smash a sixth past the bemused de Gea.
United fans attempted to break their own stadium evacuation record set at Wembley only six months earlier as the away section rubbed their eyes and checked and double checked the Old Trafford scoreboard. The scene of so many miserable matches, the self proclaimed “Theatre of Dreams” had become a fantasy playground for all things Blue. The chance to complete a second league double in four years tonight would give City the advantage in this thrilling title race as we head for the Derby of all Derbies.