Just because we’ve documented their five worst, we’d thought we’d cheer Manchester United fans up with their five best performances against their noisy neighbours in the Premier League era.
United have presided over Manchester with an iron fist for the majority of 124-year existence of the Manchester derby – but things have been totally turned on their head over the last decade.
The acquisition of Manchester City by the Abu Dhabi United Group in August 2008 was always going to have massive ramifications on football in England as well as one of England’s most famous footballing cities – and so it has proved.
It took a few years for City to gain a foothold but they are undoubtedly the dominant force in the city now – and the Premier League as a whole.
Of the 21 Premier League encounters between the city rivals over the last 10 years, both sides can boast nine wins apiece, with the blue half of Manchester drawing level with the reds following their Sunday stroll to three points at the Etihad, with David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Ilkay Gundogan netting in a 3-1 win for Pep Guardiola’s side.
With the balance in power having well and truly shifted, here we give United fans something to cling to by taking a look at five of the best performances in the Premier League era.
April 7, 2018: City 2 United 3
A game that will live long in the memory of United fans, even though it probably shouldn’t. In the face of City’s increasing strength and brilliance, this comeback from 2-0 down is up there with anything United have achieved over the years.
But they should have been out of it at the break, such was City’s utter dominance. Raheem Sterling squandered several chances as the home side battered Jose Mourinho’s lacklustre visitors in the opening 45 minutes – Vincent Kompany and Gundogan striking within five minutes of each other to put City in the driving seat and on course for the title.
They would have won it against their rivals had they held on to the win – but United stirred after the break. Paul Pogba was incredible and sparked the fightback. From 2-0 down his quickfire brace made it 2-2 with 10 minutes of the second half gone.
Chris Smalling proved an unlikely matchwinner and even though City still strolled to the title, this will irk City and delight United fans for years to come.
December 9, 2012: City 2 United 3
The Manchester derby at its finest – and also at its ugliest. This was a proper rivalry game with Wayne Rooney lighting the blue touch paper with a first half brace to put the visitors in command.
City fought back though as goals from Yaya Toure and Pablo Zabaleta put Roberto Mancini’s men level with the game entering its closing moments.
Sir Alex Ferguson had prised Robin van Persie away from Arsenal’s bosom in the summer and the Dutchman would go on to have a devastating impact as United lifted a 20th title in the Scot’s final campaign at the helm.
And it was Van Persie who would have the decisive say here, his free-kick flicked off Samir Nasri and beyond Joe Hart to spark wild celebrations. Ugly scenes followed as Rio Ferdinand suffered a cut eye when struck by an object thrown from the crowd, and City keeper Hart had to restrain a pitch invader as he advanced towards the United defender.
January 27, 2010: United 3 City 1
A sweet Carling Cup semi-final triumph for United, although this was arguably where the tide started to turn for City.
The blue half of Manchester had been cheering a 2-1 win in the first leg of this clash thanks to a Carlos Tevez brace. But the return leg a week later had a familiar ending in a spellbinding encounter.
After a goalless first half, Paul Scholes drilled United ahead early in the second and Michael Carrick turned the tie on its head when he steered in a second as the balance shifted towards the home side. But Tevez’s acrobatic backheel five minutes later made it all square in a tie that was heading for extra-time.
Rooney had other ideas and after Shay Given had saved superbly from Darren Fletcher, Ryan Giggs delivered an inch-perfect ball into the box and Rooney emphatically headed in to take United into the final – where they beat Aston Villa 2-1.
September 20, 2009: United 4 City 3
WHAT. A. GAME. United, or rather Ferdinand, looked to have thrown it away when Craig Bellamy scored for City to make it 3-3 just as the clock ticked past 90 minutes.
An enthralling game from the off as Tevez, back at his former club for the first time after his acrimonious switch across the city, threatened to return to haunt United in a game that had everything – apart from decent defending.
Rooney put United ahead after two minutes but Tevez pounced on poor Ben Foster goalkeeping to tee up Gareth Barry. Bellamy twice responded to pinpoint Fletcher headers – the first a thunderous 25-yard rocket – before pouncing on Ferdinard’s horrendous attempt at a chipped pass to race clear from halfway and make it 3-3.
But there was one final twist. In the sixth minute of added time, Giggs’ calm pass picked out Michael Owen and he poked beyond Given to spark wild scenes.
November 7, 1993: City 2 United 3
Let’s go back to a time most modern football fans might not remember, just the second ever Premier League season. It’s November 1993 and Niall Quinn heads City into a 2-0 lead at Maine Road against their illustrious rivals – who are just at the start of their journey to becoming English football’s juggernauts following their title triumph the previous season – a maiden championship in 26 years.
Michel Vonk’s mistakes gift-wraps a chance to Eric Cantona who pulls one back, with the Frenchman then equalising 13 minutes from time when getting on the end of Giggs’ sublime cross.
United aren’t done and in a sign of things to come occurs as they strike late to clinch a thrilling win. Roy Keane is on the end of Denis Irwin’s dangerous delivery to make it 3-2 with four minutes left.
Jose Mourinho, Proper Football Man™. Is anyone surprised?
The Manchester United manager has forged a successful career as his era’s premier counter-revolutionary, so with football’s stats revolution underway, it’s no surprise that he declared himself to be in the opposite camp following Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Manchester City.
“So, when I analyse the game – you can go for stats, that’s the way people who don’t understand football analyse, with stats – I don’t go for stats. I go for what I felt, for what I saw in the game,” he said.
The stats that Mourinho was objecting to were ones that showed his side had been poor in the Manchester derby. City had 65 per cent possession and 17 shots – five on target – to United’s six. In contrast, United’s only shot on target was Anthony Martial’s coolly taken penalty.
Yet Mourinho may have a point in his analysis of the game, calling United’s performance not bad but one “with mistakes”. City’s three goals came after Ander Herrera, assigned to man-mark David Silva, lost the playmaker in the United penalty area; David De Gea was beaten at the near post, among the rarer sights in football; and Nemanja Matic completely failed to pick up Ilkay Gundogan 10 yards out.
It’s fair to say that the defensive perfection required for Mourinho’s typical style to work always leaves his sides vulnerable to individual errors ruining the masterplan. But does that mean he’s wrong in believing his side played well?
As he rightly pointed out, United went into the game in differing circumstances to their hosts.
“One team [City] started the season strong and are still strong, another team [United] didn’t start well and is improving a lot,” Mourinho said.
“If you focus on the game, it was open for 80 minutes. I think no-one left the stadium before the third goal because the match was open.
“In a week City played three matches at home, we played three away. They had 6-0 wins, no pressure, relaxed.
“Our second game [against Juventus] was like a final for us, against one of the best teams in Europe, demanding everything we had to give from physical and mental perspective.
“I consider the performance to be one with mistakes, it’s different to a bad performance. We were punished, but the performance, mentality, togetherness, belief, fighting until the end, is something we are building. We won’t lose that because of a defeat.”
It’s hard to argue with any of what he said. And this is where statistics can fail to tell the full story.
United are indeed a work in progress. Though what that says about Mourinho – having been manager for more than two seasons and coming off the back of a second-place league finish that should have been the launchpad for a more sustained challenge to City rather than a campaign where they’ve seemingly been surpassed by everyone else in the league’s big six – is up for debate.
The statistics for such a side will never measure up against their neighbours from the blue half of the city, who are well-settled under Pep Guardiola. City haven’t had to deal with the sort of turmoil Mourinho faced earlier this season, when it seemed like United’s players were in open rebellion against their manager.
That, at least, has apparently been overcome. The Red Devils have looked much better since last month’s comeback win over Newcastle.
Mourinho is entitled to believe in the improvement he feels he’s seen from his squad. Statistics can be as useful a tool for managers as they are for experts and journalists. But a man with two decades of experience in football should be trusted to make accurate judgments based on what he feels.
Imagine the reaction of Sir Alex Ferguson if he’d been fed expected goals stats? The legendary United boss was never one to shun any tool that could have helped his sides improve, but it is likely he would have trusted his own judgment over anything the stats would have told him.
That’s the same Ferguson who once masterminded a 1-0 Champions League semi-final win over Barcelona in which his side had 27 per cent possession in the first leg and 38 per cent in the second.
Mourinho’s own career is littered with similar examples of defying the statistics. His side may have been beaten on Sunday, but for once, a Proper Football Man™ might be right.
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba and forward Anthony Martial have withdrawn from the France squad for the Nations League match against the Netherlands and friendly with Uruguay because of injury.
Pogba was absent from the United squad which was beaten 3-1 at Manchester City on Sunday, with Martial completing the full game.
The French Football Federation confirmed on Monday neither player would be involved for the world champions over the international break.
A post on the France national team Twitter feed said Pogba’s injury was a thigh problem, while Martial had an abductor-related issue.
Both players had reported to the squad’s base at Clairefontaine and been assessed by Dr Franck Le Gall.
Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette and Tottenham midfielder Moussa Sissoko have been called up as replacements by Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps.
France can secure top spot in Nations League Group A and qualification for the finals when they tackle the Dutch in Rotterdam on November 16.