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Best of friends: five classic Manchester derbies

We’re really looking forward to Saturday’s Manchester derby. To get you in the mood, here are five of our favourites from the Premier League era.

FORGET ABOUT NOVEMBER’S bore-all draw, the Manchester derby is historically a cracker. High-scoring thrillers, one-sided goalfests, and career-ending tackles are all distinct possibilities when the Mancunian neighbours clash.

We take a trip down memory lane to bring you five of our favourites from the past twenty years.

1. Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United

7 November 1993

Before he found disco pants fame, Niall Quinn actually used to be a rather decent footballer. Just ask Peter Schmeichel.

Every time the seemingly invincible Great Dane came up against the six-foot-four beanpole, he would suddenly transform into some sort of flailing excuse for a goalkeeper. Or at least that’s how it seemed on the basis of the November 1993 derby.

Having been dumped out of the Champions League by Galatasaray the previous week, United came into the game desperately in need of a lift. Ireland’s very own Mother Theresa was not in a charitable mood however and, by half-time, a Quinny brace had handed City a commanding 2-0 lead.

City had already started to rummage through the presses for some salt to rub into their neighbours’ wound when up stepped Michel Vonk. Remember him? Didn’t think so.

It was the Belgian’s magnificently erroneous header which set Cantona free, allowing the Frenchman to give United a lifeline. Once they had pulled one back, the belief flowed back into those in red shirts and the game was turned on its head.

A magnificent slide-rule pass from Giggs and a cheeky backheel from Lee Sharpe later and this one was all over, folks.

2. Manchester United 5-0 Manchester City

10 November 1994

Why is it that a five-goal win seems so much more comprehensive than four? Answers on a postcard please.

With a 5-0 win on a cold November night in Old Trafford, United banished two separate yet equally troubling sets of demons. Not only had the red half of Manchester been treated to a 4-0 exhibition by Hristo Stoichkov and Barcelona in the Champions League a week earlier, but the pall of City’s own five-goal haul from 1989 still loomed large in the minds of players and fans alike.

Within 24 minutes, the pain had already started to fade as Eric Cantona reminded the world (as if we could forget) just how good he was.

If Kanchelskis’ 40-yard pass was brilliant, Cantona’s first touch was perfect, effortlessly flicking the ball into his path without breaking stride before completing the formalities.

In a sense, you’d almost feel sorry for Andrei Kanchelskis. A derby hat-trick is an achievement which is rarely overlooked.

On this occasion, as always, Cantona had the last word.

3. Manchester United 1-1 Manchester City

21 April 2001

The April 2001 derby wasn’t a vintage game of football, but it certainly was a memorable one.

Rather than miserably attempt to recreate the premeditated malevolence of Roy Keane’s assault on Alf-Inge Haaland, I’ll step aside and let the Corkman explain his clear-headed rationale in his own inimitable way.

I’d waited long enough. I fucking hit him hard. The ball was there (I think).

Take that you c**t. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.

Even in the dressing room afterwards, I had no remorse. My attitude was, fuck him. What goes around, comes around. He got his just rewards. He fucks me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye.

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Charming.

4. Manchester City 3-1 Manchester United

9 November 2002

As the last Manchester derby to be played at Maine Road before City’s relocation to Eastlands, the November 2002 meeting between the two rivals was particularly significant.

It had been 13 long years since City had beaten United (a 5-1 tonking in 1989, for the record), and if ever there was a time to end the drought, this was it.

Step forward, Shaun Goater.

Though the Bermudian forward had been instrumental in City’s return to the top flight of English football, he had never quite managed to replicate his golden touch in the Premiership.

Feed the Goat and he will score,” the Maine Road faithful continued to bellow, hinting that the problem may have been one of supply rather than execution. Terrace chants often contain an awful lot of rubbish, but in this instance, they were right.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that even Gary Neville wanted to feed the Goat, gifting the striker his first as he dawdled over the ball on the by-line.

Not to be out done, Eyal Berkovic proved that City were more than capable of looking after their own frontman, his perfectly-weighted touch setting Goater free for his cooly-finished third.

5. Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City

20 September 2009

Years down the line, when the Premier League archives are finally opened, sporting historians will race to unveil one of the greatest secrets in English football.

Is there an official rule which states that Manchester United are to be allowed additional injury time to steal an equaliser or to bag a winner? Does the so-called “Fergie Time” directive really exist?

If there is actually a giant conspiracy of this nature, referee Martin Atkinson came perilously close to blowing the whole scheme sky-high when he added six minutes on to the end of the September 2009 derby.

To be fair, Atkinson could only do his best with the tools he had. It’s very hard to judge how long a crocked Michael Owen is going to need to score.

Sadly, the stoppage-time post-mortem which inevitably took place overshadowed what had actually been a thoroughly enjoyable game of football. Craig Bellamy’s 52nd minute equaliser was a beaut in particular, but quickly forgotten once everybody realised that there were 95 minutes and 27 seconds on the clock when Michael Owen made it 4-3.

Fergie time, the world of sporting debate would be a poorer place without thee.

Are there any particular gems that we’ve missed? Which Manchester derby sticks out in your memory? Get in touch and let us know.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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