A mere six and a half kilometers separates Old Trafford from the City of Manchester Stadium; however, the Blues have about a million miles to travel before they are on a level playing field with their rivals, at least historically. For years, Man City has lived in the shadows of its ore illustrious neighbors, but City fans truly believe the ‘Blue moon is rising’. Such claims from the blue half of Manchester have often been taken with a pinch of salt from the followers of Ferguson’s red army, but can you really blame them? The famous ticker at Old Trafford is a rude reminder of City’s recent past, which hasn’t seen any addition to their trophy cabinet since 76’. With the ridiculous money at City’s disposal, it at times seems a mere formality that the barren run will end, but until then the 34 years chant shall be heard as loud as ever.
The Manchester Derby in its early years wasn’t necessarily the most intense and fierce of the derbies. A lot of Mancunians would follow City one week and then United the next; it was all within the city, a healthy competition of sorts. However, things turned drastically with the advent of the 70’s. The famous George Best tackle that broke City’s Glyn Pardoe’s leg and the legendary Dennis Law goal that relegated United seemed to have added fire to an hitherto simmering feud.
During the last decade of the 20th century, Manchester United established themselves as the sole power in the city of Manchester, while City flirted with the wrong end of the table. Over the years, the bone of contention among two groups of supporters has been- who has the greater number of local fans? There’s been a common notion for years now that City represent the local Manchester support, but there are lot of short comings to this theory – none more so than the fact that United have had a higher average attendance than City every single season since 1947. Even though United were playing in Division 2 during the 1974-1975 season, they still had the highest average attendance of any club in the country, including Division 1. But City fans never give up; truth may sometimes hurt, but delusion does more harm.
The games between the two neighbors somewhat lost their edge during the 90’s, with United dominating the ties with ease as the gap in quality between the two squads was there for all to see. All through the 90’s United didn’t lose even a single game to City, and for Reds all over the world, the games became nothing more but token derbies. For now, Old Trafford’s bete noir lie somewhere in Merseyside, and the feeling was mutual.
For a United fan, Liverpool has always been seen as the main enemy, with Leeds and City getting their fare share of hatred. However, with Liverpool’s stars in the doldrum and Man City’s aspiration reaching sky high, there could certainly be a shift in focus. If the events of the last season are anything to go by, The Manchester Derby is now bigger and certainly noisier. The hype, empathy and sheer hatred has all gone up a notch by last year’s Tevez saga and the “Welcome to Manchester” campaign. The bitterness in the air is there for all to feel, and if these games continue to produce thrilling finales like last year’s four epic encounters, then history beckons for a place amongst the famous derbies of the world.
The Derby day has arrived, bringing with it the hate, aversion and all such strong emotions for the followers of the two teams. There are no neutrals on derby day, no place for friendly chatter; it’s a war out there, with men battling it out for bragging rights and much more. Man City believe they have finally arrived on the big stage, looking to knock United off their pedestal as the supreme authority in the M60. United now have to be wary of their noisy neighbors, as City are no more the younger annoying cousin clamoring for their piece of attention; believe it or not, they are the richest football club in the world. Manchester will be drenched in a sea of red and blue for the game. One of the biggest clubs in world football faces arguably the richest one, an irresistible force against an immovable object. The Manchester Derby is here ladies and gentleman. Respect.
United- City clashes in the recent past have served up a plethora of memorable moments; some of them have become a part of the Manchester folklore.
1) United 4-3 City, Old Trafford, September ’09: The match ebbed and flowed from one side to another, but when City equalized in the 90th minute United hopes came crashing down. Up stepped Michael Owen, and the rest they say is history; a 97th minute winner was like a dagger in the heart of City fans and that gave birth to the chant “4-3” mate.
2) City 2-3 United, Main Road, November ’93: City raced to a 2-0 half-time lead. United came out all guns blazing in the second half, and an inspired Eric Cantona’s brilliant brace brought themselves level. United’s winning goal, the product of some superb passing, was hammered home by Roy Keane at the back post.
3) City 4-1 United, Eastlands, March ’04: City’s most famous wins of the recent past came in the summer of 2004, when Kevin Keegan’s sky blues hammered four past United in a ruthless display. Fowler, Macken, Sinclair and Wright Philips were on the score sheet for City, as Paul Scholes scored for the Red Devils.
4) City 3-1 United, Main Road, November ’02: The Shaun Goater match, as it is fondly remembered by City fans, was City’s first derby win in over twelve years. Newly-promoted City fielded a side containing not a single Englishman, but Keegan’s charges battled hard and outplayed a lackluster United. Nicolas Anelka opened the scoring for City, but Ole Solsjkaer equalized soon after. Shaun Goater then took matters in his own hands.
5) United 3-1 City, Old Trafford, February’ 10: The banner at Old Trafford won’t be torn down as Mancini promised, as United outplayed City over two legs and knocked them out of the Carling cup, and in the process denied them their only chance of silverware. A late Rooney header once again smashed City’s dreams and booked United’s trip to Wembley.