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The Derby Diaries: The Legendary Manchester Derby

The fierce competition for the Manchester Cup was what made it the biggest rivalry in England. In this edition of Derby Count, we delve into the rich history of the Manchester Derby.

Vinayak Manoj
Last updated: 28.09.2019
The Derby Diaries: The Legendary Manchester Derby | Sports Social Blog

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Red or Blue? A question that has been asked in the city of Manchester for ages. All bitter rivalries begin with one moment, one match, something that sparks a decades-long tussle between players, management and fans alike. Oftentimes it is near impossible to trace this rivalry back to one particular moment because it exists perpetually in the minds of the people, drilled into the minds of children as soon as they are born. Football in England is a religion, it exists as a form of identity to the people. The clubs and fans are a tightly knit family, an insult to the club is seen as an insult to the people themselves. Arguments, tussles and sometimes violence are quite routine. 


From humble beginnings as West Gorton and Newton Heath to the modern heights of Manchester City and Manchester United respectively, both the outfits fighting for the tag of the finest in Manchester. The first encounter between the Manchester giants took place way back in 1881. The derby was not known as Manchester City or United but West Gorton(or St. Mark’s) and Newton Heath. This fixture was won by the Heathens with a score of 3-0. This fixture was not nearly as significant as it would later become. During this period both the teams were just two of a group of various teams based out of Manchester. It was only after Manchester City was renamed to Ardwick FC that the seeds for the rivalry were sown, since the competition was fierce for the Manchester Cup. Winning the Manchester Cup was what displayed their growing dominance in football in Manchester.





City won the first Manchester Derby that took place in the top division of football. Having won the FA Cup in 1904 Manchester City had established themselves as the bigger club, but the trouble was brewing for the Cityzens. A financial scandal of under-the-table payments to players ended with seventeen of their players being banned from representing the team ever again. United cashed in on City’s misery and signed four of their players, who would later prove to be the secret of Manchester’s glory in England. 



There have been multiple pulsating fixtures between the pair. In recent times there have been some classic encounters depending on your perspective, be it blue or red. Here are a few memorable fixtures-


1. Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City (October  2011)


The Noisy Neighbours inflicted the worst home defeat since 1955 as they thrashed the Red Devils. City were victorious on both occasions with 5-0 in the 1955 fixture and 6-1 in the 2011 fixture. The 6-1 scoreline proved extremely crucial for the title-race. City won the title with their superior goal difference, had the defeat been 2-1 instead of 6-1, it would have costed them the title. Mario Balotelli inspired the Cityzens to an emphatic victory in their neighbour’s backyard. United committed their entire team forward leaving City with massive gaps for them to exploit. Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Edin Dzeko found their way to the scoreline along with Balotelli. 

2. Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City (September 2009)


Michael Owen’s winner deep into stoppage time boosted United to a victory, one of the greatest derby day to take place in Manchester. Owen came on as a substitute for Dimitar Berbatov. The goal was followed by mixed emotions along the sidelines with Sir Alex Ferguson breaking into a spontaneous dance and the City boss Mark Hughes demanding to know how a decisive moment in the match could come at the sixth minute of a four-minute extra time period. Craig Bellamy knocked a late equaliser at the 90th minute, a ray of hope, almost earning City a point. The game saw a lot of action and excitement, it had everything other than good defending. 


3. Manchester City 3-3 Manchester United (October 1990)


United having won the FA cup just 5 months prior this derby clash, was the first piece of silverware under the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. This season was when United had started asserting their dominance in the league. City led the game 3-1 down to the 80th minute, United showed they never give up attitude(something that they miss these days) and Brian McClair popped up with a brace to bring United level. City dominated the game but United’s resolve and attitude was something that exhibited the outfit’s nature during the tenure of Sir Alex Ferguson; never knowing they were beaten.

4. Manchester City 0-1 Manchester United (April 2010)


United chasing their fourth title in a row with City fighting for a place in the Champions League. Having been to two consecutive Champions League finals, United were proving to be a formidable opponent. Paul Scholes was credited with finding the back of the net in extra time that earned him the memorable kiss from an elated Gary Neville, although United fell short of one point to win the league. 

5. Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United (April 2012)


City took control of the Premier League title race thanks to their victory over Manchester United. Vincent Kompany’s header in the extra time of the first half took City ahead of United. City required a win while Ferguson could have sufficed with a draw. United’s display was so disappointing that they were unable to rouse themselves for their trademark late rally. 


Some historically significant figures have represented both sides of the city of Manchester. Irrespective of the result of each derby, the fixture is one of the most anticipated match. It is watched all over the world, but local pride still drives the fans and players alike. The victor of each match decides what colour the town really is- Red or Blue.


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