The 10 best Manchester derbies ever

Joe Brewin raids the archives for the greatest Manc match-ups – featuring irate Irishmen and lots (and lots) of goals

1. Man United 0-1 Man City, Apr 1974

When Denis Law’s late backheel found the net against his former club, the Scot thought he’d been the man to end Manchester United’s 36-year stint in English football’s top flight. As it happened, the Reds would have been relegated anyway after Birmingham beat Norwich in their final game of the campaign, but Law wasn't to know. 

He refused to celebrate and was substituted immediately after, never to play another league game for the club who’d beaten Matt Busby to his signature the first time around in 1960. It was understandable – after all, Law spent 11 years as a Manchester United player, scoring 237 goals in 404 appearances until his release, aged 33, in summer 1973.

This game didn’t even see the full-time whistle after United fans invaded the pitch with five minutes to spare. The Football League upheld the result, condemning the Old Trafford side to the Second Division – if only for a season…

Denis Law, Manchester City vs Manchester United

United fans put a scarf around Law, moments after the Scot's winner

2. Man United 4-3 Man City, Sep 2009

The first of four meetings between these two sides this season was undoubtedly the best – and perhaps even the greatest-ever Manchester derby.

Manchester City had splashed over £100 million on new talent over the summer, including Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott and £25m former United man Carlos Tevez. But this was one battle that money couldn’t win.

A classic to-and-fro saw United take the lead three times, only to be pegged back on each occasion until their late, late winner at Old Trafford.

Wayne Rooney slotted Sir Alex Ferguson’s men ahead inside two minutes, before City new boy Gareth Barry bagged his first goal for Mark Hughes’s side. Darren Fletcher headed home four minutes after the break, only for Craig Bellamy to curl home a beauty from the edge of the box soon after.

Fletcher would provide another with his noggin 10 minutes from time only for Bellamy, once again, to pounce in the last minute after Rio Ferdinand’s sorry blunder.

But that wasn’t the end. Deep into stoppage-time – the 96th minute, in fact – Ryan Giggs’s sumptuous through-ball found Michael Owen, who produced his most (and only?) memorable United moment to send Old Trafford into raptures. Hughes lasted another two months before being replaced by Roberto Mancini.

Michael Owen vs Manchester City

Owen endears himself to Old Trafford in the best way possible

3. Man United 1-1 Man City, Apr 2001

This game isn’t remembered for its football, but the bitter ending of a four-year feud between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haland.

The story is familiar: Keane, still furious after Haland accused him of feigning injury while the Norwegian played for Leeds in September 1997, took his frustrations out on the City man with a heinous knee-high tackle that left the defender in a crumpled heap. Keane was originally slapped with a three-game ban and £5k fine, but after later admitting in his autobiography that he’d “waited long enough… I f***ing hit him hard. Take that you c***,” it became reasonably clear this was no accident.

What’s not so familiar is that, although utterly hideous, the tackle didn’t end Haland’s career – indeed, the Norwegian finished this game. He already had strapping on his troublesome left knee at the time, and when it failed to respond to surgery, Haland was forced to retire in 2003 after just a handful more substitute appearances.

As for the game (as if you’re interested), Teddy Sheringham’s second-half penalty was cancelled out by a late Steve Howey equaliser.

Roy Keane, Alf Inge Haland

Keane berates Haland for kneeing his studs

4. Man City 2-3 Man United, Nov 1993

“Two-nil up and you f***ed it up,” chanted the masses at Maine Road, in reference to their city rivals’ Champions League exit at the hands of Galatasaray four days previously. In football you have to take the rough with the smooth, though, as City fans would find out to their horror.

It all began swimmingly for the hosts as Niall Quinn headed Brian Horton’s men into a two-goal lead before half-time. But those same City supporters weren’t signing for much longer thanks to defender Michel Vonk, whose wayward defensive header was pounced upon by Eric Cantona to halve the deficit.

Cantona equalised on 78 minutes when he converted from Giggs’s typically exquisite pass and, with just three minutes left on the clock, a young Keane smashed home the winner in his first Manchester derby.

Fergie’s men were formidable at this point – this was their 19th win in 22 league games. They’d go on to win their second title under the Scot and capped a fine season with the FA Cup. City finished 16th, just three points above the relegation zone.

Roy Keane vs Manchester City

A sprightly Keane wheels away after his winner

5. Man United 1-6 Man City, Oct 2011

This wasn't so much a statement of City’s intent for the season but a full-blown fire-punch to the face.

Roberto Mancini’s marauders dismantled United on their title rivals’ own turf, smashing home six goals to leave a fuming Fergie rueing his “worst ever day” in charge of the club. “We will react, no question,” he spat.

Mario Balotelli broke the deadlock on 22 minutes (the day after it emerged a firework had gone off in his house) and duly celebrated by brandishing a t-shirt with “Why Always Me?” slapped across the front. And yes, he was booked for it.

But it was Jonny Evans’s catastrophic red card that proved the catalyst for a second-half City onslaught. Balotelli notched his second shortly after and Sergio Aguero added a third, while substitute Edin Dzeko helped himself to a quickfire brace in between David Silva’s late fifth.

While United responded with an FA Cup victory over their close foes, City won the war with their famous last-gasp title win.

Mario Balotelli: Why Always Me?

We can't think why, Mario...