Somebody has to stop Chelsea. The 168th Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium this weekend might tell us a bit more about who has the legs to challenge them.
With no clean sheet in 14 league games between the two Manchester clubs this season, there are likely to be goals this Sunday. United’s deployment of Greco-Roman wrestlers kept Chelsea at bay for 53 minutes last weekend, while City lacked all cohesion against an on-song West Ham United and fell to Newcastle in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday.
Robin van Persie has rediscovered his scoring boots, Wayne Rooney has served his suspension and Ballon D’or nominee Angel Di Maria is on fire. Sergio Aguero has scored 11 times in 12 appearances, David Silva looked back to his imperious best in the second half at Upton Park, while Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure are always dangerous.
Short of another mesmeric performance from David de Gea, City will score. But it’s at the set-piece United must tighten up to avoid a fourth straight defeat at hands of their most bitter rivals. The Reds cannot rely purely on firepower up against Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala as they chase an elusive 60th league victory in this fixture.
While the world gears up for what is set to be another momentous Manchester Derby, Commentary Box Sports takes a look back at ten of the best.
27 March, 1968
United 1-3 City
Newly promoted City broke the dominance of Liverpool and United to claim the top-flight title for the second time in their history in 1967/68. Goals from Colin Bell, George Heslop and Francis Lee hauled back United’s early lead and handed the Sky Blues a crucial win. United finished the season two points behind their rivals.
27 April, 1974
United 0-1 City
Dennis Law’s backheel compounded United’s misery as news filtered through that Birmingham’s victory over Norwich spelled the end of the Reds’ 36 years in English football’s top flight. Law, who refused to celebrate, spent 11 years at Manchester United, scoring 237 goals in 404 appearances before rejoining City, aged 33.
23 September, 1989
City 5-1 United
Sir Alex Ferguson’s first Manchester derby at Maine Road did not go well. In his only other experience of the tie, United won 2-0 at Old Trafford in March 1987, contributing to City’s demise. But the jury was still out on Ferguson in 1989 and, until October 2011, he claimed this was one of his worst days in the job.
27 October, 1990
City 3-3 United
With both sides looking stronger during the 1990/91 season, and City 3-1 up in this autumn derby, manager Howard Kendall removed Peter Reid for the last 10 minutes. His replacement Ian Brightwell gave the ball away to Brian McClair who scored twice in three minutes to bring the scores level. City had to wait until 2002 for their next victory over United.
7 November, 1993
City 2-3 United
Following United’s capitulation at home to Galatasary in the week, City fans never thought ill of ridiculing the Reds with chants of ‘Two nil, and you fucked it up’. That was until two second half goals from Cantona and a late winner from Keane cancelled out Niall Quinn’s early brace. United went on to win the double.
9 November, 2002
City 3-1 United
The final derby at Maine Road saw City’s first victory in the fixture for 13 years. Nicolas Anelka and Ole Gunnar Solksjaer exchanged openers, before Shaun ‘The Goat’ Goater was fed twice (first by an awful Gary Neville mistake) to score his 100th and 101st goals for the Sky Blues.
20 September 2009
United 4-3 City
‘Welcome to Manchester’ read City’s billboards as they boasted of signing Carlos Tevez from United as part of the huge Sheikh-up. But it was a player who once played for another of United’s rivals that stole the headlines on this occasion. After ‘noisy neighbours’ City had come from behind three times, Michael Owen netted four minutes into injury time to prompt a Ferguson touchline jig followed by the proclamation that this was the greatest derby of all time.
12 February 2011
United 2-1 City
Wayne Rooney’s spectacular volley drove United to their record-breaking 19th title just 12 minutes from time in this tense Manchester derby. It came a week after United’s first loss in the 2010/11 Premier League season – at the hands of bottom-placed Wolverhampton Wanderers – as they attempted to wrestle the title back from Chelsea.
23 October 2011
United 1-6 City
This was the day City won only their second league game at Old Trafford in 28 previous attempts. And they did it in some style. ‘Why always me?’ Balotelli scored twice within the first hour, before Aguero, Silva and Dzeko inflicted United’s worst defeat at Old Trafford since 1955.
9 December 2012
City 2-3 United
In a pulsating contest, Rooney (the Manchester derby leading scorer with 11 goals) put United 2-0 up in the first half, before City struck back with Yaya Toure and Zabaleta in the 86th minute. Robin van Persie’s 92nd-minute free-kick ensured Ferguson’s final derby in the blue corner ended in victory. United have lost all three derbies since.