Monday, December 18, 2017

United v City: Noisy neighbours, ´Why Always Me?´ and other Old Trafford memories

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 7 Dec 2017

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After last season’s false start, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho now look set to reprise their previous battle for supremacy at Barcelona and Real Madrid with Manchester City and Manchester United.

United lie eight points behind City heading into this weekend’s crosstown showdown, which seems certain to provide a pivotal moment in this season’s race for the Premier League.

But this famous old rivalry has not always needed superstar managers lifted from a hallowed football battleground to provide unforgettable excitement, dizzying highs and punishing lows.

Here, we take a look through some of the most memorable Old Trafford encounters in the Manchester derby’s rich history.

March 1968 – Manchester United 1 Manchester City 3

United were on their way to becoming England’s first European champions but they would also let domestic dominance slip into the hands of local rivals City over the closing weeks of the 1967-68 season. The great George Best opened the scoring in the first minute but it was the man long recognised as the greatest player in City’s history, Colin Bell, who inspired a typically stylish victory from Joe Mercer and Malcom Allison’s swashbuckling side. England midfielder Bell equalised before half-time and, after centre-back George Heslop headed the visitors in front, he won a penalty for Francis Lee to seal the points. In events that would be echoed 44 years later, City pipped United to the title on the final day of the season.

April 1974 – Manchester United 0 Manchester City 1

A day when City symbolically, if not actually, relegated United and one of lingering regret for Denis Law. ‘The King of Old Trafford’, Law left United after 11 years and 236 goals in 1973 for a second stint at City. Matt Busby’s old empire was in a state of crumbling disrepair and United headed into their penultimate game of the following season needing to beat City and hope other results went their way. In the 82nd minute of an otherwise forgettable contest, Bell strode forward and fed Lee, who cut the ball across the box and saw Law instinctively backheel through the legs of Alex Stepney. The visibly crestfallen goalscorer was substituted and retired at the start of the following season. Birmingham City’s win over Norwich City meant United were condemned to Division Two in any case, but years later Law said: “I have seldom felt so depressed in my life as I did that weekend.”

November 1994 – Manchester United 5 Manchester City 0

United fans had been treated to the waspish wit of their colleagues and jokes about three-pin plugs after their latest European escapade under Alex Ferguson ended in a 4-0 defeat to a Romario and Hristo Stoichkov-inspired Barcelona. The days of Champions League glory under Ferguson were still a little way down the road but, eight days on from their Camp Nou ordeal, United emphatically proved they were masters of their own manor with a brutal demolition of City. Andrei Kanchelskis plundered a hat-trick with a livewire performance from the right wing, while Eric Cantona – the scourge of the blue half of Manchester during this period with eight goals in as many derbies – got in on the act along with Mark Hughes to chalk up United’s record win in the fixture.

September 2009 – Manchester United 4 Manchester City 3

The ‘noisy neighbours’ derby. Ferguson had been irritated by the newly emboldened Manchester City over the first year of their Abu Dhabi ownership and he delighted in taking the spoils from this undulating thriller. Carlos Tevez, back at United for the first time since joining their rivals, hustled a mistake out of goalkeeper Ben Foster and laid on Gareth Barry to cancel out Wayne Rooney’s early opener. Try as they might, United just could not shake City – Darren Fletcher twice headed them back in front, only for Craig Bellamy to answer with a pair of brilliant solo efforts. But then came injury time, that often fruitful terrain of the Ferguson era, and Michael Owen’s ice-cool finish in front of the Stretford End sparked delirium.

February 2011 – Manchester United 2 Manchester City 1

An important win as Ferguson and United wrestled the Premier League title back from Chelsea produced arguably the standout moment of Rooney’s record-breaking United career. The hosts got their noses in front shortly before half-time when Nani stole in front of Pablo Zabaleta to finish tidily. A tense, tactical affair was all square after 65 minutes. David Silva equalising by virtue of a wayward Edin Dzeko shot clattering off his backside was not becoming of player of his sublime talents, before Rooney placed his own brilliance at centre stage. Nani’s right-wing cross looped up off Zabaleta and the former England captain pivoted to launch himself skywards, sending an unstoppable overhead kick beyond Joe Hart.

October 2011 – Manchester United 1 Manchester City 6

Eight months on from Rooney’s stunning intervention, Roberto Mancini’s City served notice of their title intentions by spectacularly turning the tables on United. Mario Balotelli’s ‘Why Always Me’ celebration supplied the game’s defining image but the slick build-up for that opening goal, with Silva and James Milner to the fore, highlighted the manner of City’s dominance from the first whistle. Jonny Evans’ red card for pulling back Balotelli early in the second half left United with a mountain to climb and the enigmatic Italian soon doubled his tally. Sergio Aguero slid in a third on the end of a brilliant one-touch move before Fletcher’s fine consolation had the unfortunate effect of emboldening a depleted United. City streamed forward repeatedly as Dzeko, twice, and Silva laid the punishment on thick. The severity of United’s collapse took on added significance in the final reckoning, as Mancini’s men won the league on goal difference.

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SoccerNews

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