Premier League Manchester Derbies: The Key Clashes
Ahead of the 49th Premier League Manchester derby, we look back at 11 key clashes between the rivals in the competition that have shaped the fixture as we know it today.
The Cantona Debut
December 6, 1992
The first-ever Premier League derby between Manchester United and Manchester City was also the competitive debut for Red Devils’ legend Eric Cantona.
Cantona had signed from Leeds United, where he’d started the season with an impressive 11 goal involvements in 13 Premier League appearances (six goals, five assists) – ahead of United’s most threatening attacking player at the time, Mark Hughes (six goals, one assist).
The mercurial Frenchman had a quiet debut after coming on as a half-time substitute but did collect another much-revered accolade on the night, becoming the first-ever player to play make consecutive Premier League appearances against the same opponent but for different teams. Cantona’s last league appearance for Leeds United was a 2-0 defeat against Manchester City, just 29 days before his debut at Manchester United in the derby.
The Comeback Win
November 7, 1993
With a 2-0 lead at half-time courtesy of a Niall Quinn brace, Manchester City could have been forgiven for believing they’d ended their seven-game winless run in the derby. However, Manchester United produced the first comeback victory in the Premier League era and the first seen in a Manchester derby since United’s 2-1 win at Maine Road in March 1983.
Eric Cantona scored twice for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side after the break before Roy Keane struck the winner in the 87th minute with his first and only Premier League goal against Manchester City. More on Roy later.
This was the first time that Manchester United had come from two or more goals behind to win a Premier League game. That tally now stands at 12 over 28 years later – more than any other club in the history of the competition – and is a statistic to define why United are synonymous with comeback victories.
November 10, 1994
Despite being played 48 times in the Premier League, the Manchester derby has seen fewer hat-tricks scored (1) than a single Premier League game between Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers in December 2007 (2).
The only man to score a treble between the two Manchester clubs in the Premier League? That would be Andrei Kanchelskis in this meeting back in November 1994.
Kanchelskis’ hat-trick came in a 5-0 victory for Manchester United, which still remains their biggest margin of victory over their City rivals in a competitive fixture. The winger scored 13% of his Premier League goals for Manchester United within the space of 45 minutes during this derby.
The Red Card
April 21, 2001
Roy Keane received more red cards for Manchester United in the Premier League than any other player (7), so it is hardly a surprise that he was the first player to be sent off in a Manchester derby in the competition.
His infamous ever-so-slightly high tackle on Alf-Inge Håland saw the Irishman dismissed at Old Trafford during an otherwise unremarkable 1-1 draw. The tackle was rumoured to be retribution for an injury that Keane suffered in September 1997 against Leeds, that Manchester United midfielder blamed Haaland for.
Weirdly, they had played a full 90 minutes against one another between Keane’s injury and his shocking challenge on the Norwegian in the Red Devils’ Premier League clash versus Leeds United at Old Trafford in November 1998, but Keane scored that day so maybe it was enough to distract him on that occasion.
The First City Win
November 9, 2002
After 16 successive Manchester derbies without a victory, City finally ended their run with a 3-1 victory in the last ever derby match at Maine Road.
This 16-match run was the longest City have ever gone without a victory in the derby and it was Kevin Keegan who managed to orchestrate the win in the dugout.
Keegan hadn’t faced Ferguson in a league match since his rant live on TV six years previously and after Shaun Goater netted his 100th and 101st Manchester City goals to seal victory, the former England manager did indeed “love it”.
March 14, 2004
After moving to their new stadium – now known as the Etihad Stadium – in August 2003, they had to wait until their 19th competitive game there to welcome rivals United in the derby.
In the 13 Premier League games at their new home prior to the derby, they’d collected just 13 points and scored 17 goals – the only team with a worse home record in the league at that point was Leicester City on 12 points. Kevin Keegan’s side threw the form book out of the window, as they dispatched their rivals with a comprehensive 4-1 victory.
City managed to complete a miserable week for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side after they were knocked out by FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League just five days previously. Some guy called Jose Mourinho made a bit of a stir by running down the Old Trafford touchline in that game.
The Theatre Silenced
February 10, 2008
Manchester United came into the Manchester derby in February 2008 on the back of 12 successive home wins in the Premier League and with the best home record in the competition (37 points in 13 games). Naturally, they went on to suffer their first-ever Premier League defeat to City at Old Trafford.
First-half goals from Darius Vassell and Benjani saw City outscore United (who netted a late consolation via Michael Carrick) to secure their first competitive victory away at Old Trafford in 34 years while it also meant they completed a first league double over their rivals for the first time since 1969-70.
As a tribute to the Munich air disaster 50 years previously, the occasion saw Manchester United’s players wear 1950s style red shirts numbered one to 11, with City also wearing special shirts. There were no advertising hoardings on display, instead the names of the 23 who died in 1958 were displayed. The respect continued on the pitch, as with only one yellow card in this derby match – no Premier League game between City and United has seen fewer cards dished out before or since.
November 30, 2008
Manchester United picked up a fairly routine 1-0 win in derby against City in November 2008 at the Etihad Stadium, but their task was made harder by the dismissal of Cristiano Ronaldo in the second half.
Wayne Rooney had scored his 100th club goal before the Portuguese received two yellow cards from referee Howard Webb, the second of which was a deliberate handball. As a result, Ronaldo is the only player to be sent off twice in Premier League derbies between United and City. Yet another win over Lionel Messi.
The Noisy Neighbours Dealt With
September 20, 2009
Possibly the most dramatic of Manchester derbies in the Premier League occurred at Old Trafford in September 2009.
After a summer of heavy spending by City – which included the signing of Carlos Tevez from United – Alex Ferguson had proclaimed that they were the “noisy neighbours” and thanks to an injury time winner from Tevez’s replacement Michael Owen, they were able to turn down the noise.
Owen’s winner came on 95:27 and was the latest winning goal in the 2009-10 Premier League season, this goal coming just five minutes and 32 seconds after Craig Bellamy thought he’d salvaged a draw with a fantastic individual effort for City.
October 23, 2011
Sir Alex Ferguson took charge of 725 competitive home games for Manchester United during his 27-year tenure at the club, but the only game he suffered a defeat by a margin of four or more goals was the Manchester derby back in October 2011.
A 6-1 home defeat to their rivals had dire consequences down the line, as United went on to lose the Premier League title to City on goal difference, with eight goals separating the sides.
In a match remembered by some for Mario Balotelli’s celebration; revealing a “Why Always Me?” shirt, City attempted 22 shots – a tally that has only been bettered once by an away side at Old Trafford in the Premier League since detailed shot data became available in 2003.
Ferguson later revealed that he would have retired at the end of 2011-12 has United won the title, but he stayed for another campaign and ended up picking up his 13th and final Premier League crown in 2012-13.
The New Era
September 22, 2013
For the first time in 26 years, the Manchester derby saw two new managers in the dugout – David Moyes was picked as United coach on the “recommendation of a legend” and Manuel Pellegrini was taking charge of his first Premier League derby.
It didn’t go well for Moyes, as City were 4-0 up inside 50 minutes before a late Wayne Rooney consolation. Rooney’s goal was his 11th in a Manchester derby overall, with this tally the record number in the history of the match. Of the 11, this was the only one from a set-piece, with his 87th minute direct-free kick beating Joe Hart in the City goal.