Alex Ferguson had guided the Red Devils to a second place finish in 1988. Alas, it was a false dawn as United finished mid table the following year. Ferguson went on a summer spending spree and reinforcements were brought in: Mike Phelan, Gary Pallister & Paul Ince to name a few. The season started with a 4-1 annihilation of the Gunners, but yet again the win failed to provide impetus to Fergie’s Red Express as subsequent results proved disappointing once again.
City, on the other hand, had earned promotion to the first division under the stewardship of Mel Machin but remained a few paces behind their illustrious neighbors. The blues were very much a yo-yo club, struggling to establish themselves after being crippled with financial mismanagement in the seventies. Ergo, all indications were of a comfortable United win, but seldom do such matches follow a predefined script. City boasted local flavor in their line up and that proved to be the difference as the Mancunian will and prestige drove them to memorable heights.
The match erupted into life, both on and off the pitch, with the partisan support going head to head in the stands. The referee Neil Midgeley was forced to stop the game, ordering the players back to the dressing rooms while the police restored order.
City were a team possessed as the match resumed after the unwarranted stoppage. Goals from David Oldfield, Trevor Morley & Ian Bishop put the Citizens 3-0 ahead after just over 35 minutes of action. Just after half time though, Mark Hughes scored off a sublime and characteristic volley to suggest a famous comeback for the Red Devils. However, much like Fergie’s tenure till that point in time, it was yet another false indicator. City added two more and United went back with their tales firmly between their legs.
Ferguson was starting to lose the support of the United faithful as pressure to deliver silverware was showing its effects on the Scotsman. But, he famously survived those tough times and how. Fergie remained unbeaten in the fixture until November 2002, when Kevin Keegan’s City side scored a 3-1 win in the final derby at Maine Road.
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