Top 10: The best Manchester derbies ever
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’s sadness told its own story.
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 first time around in 1960.
It’s 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…
The first of four meetings between these two sides this season was undoubtedly the best – and perhaps even the greatest-ever Manchester derby.
City had splashed over £100 million on new talent over the summer, including David Silva, Yaya Toure and £47m 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 men. 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’ sumptuous through ball found Michael Owen, who produced his most (and only?) memorable United moment to send Old Trafford into raptures.
Mark Hughes lasted another two months before being replaced by Roberto Mancini.