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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Five Years, Ten Important Manchester Derbies (April 9th 2015)

Five Years, Ten Important Manchester Derbies
The Manchester derby has always been one of the first games that fans of either club would have circled when the fixture list was released over the years, although most Manchester United fans will happily admit that it was the Liverpool game that was considered 'bigger'.

For many years Manchester City were not the regular title challenger that they have become and were arguably a little more than a yo-yo club that had been moving up and down the English pyramid.

However, they have gone through a couple of different owners over the last few years which has given them the financial clout to challenge the very best, which meant the neighbours from Old Trafford. Over the last five years, Manchester City have become a regular title contender and games between these two clubs have increased in importance in each passing season when it comes to handing out trophies.

This season is perhaps the first time in the Premier League era when neither club is challenging for the Premier League title with real belief of being able to catch Chelsea, but that doesn't mean there is nothing to play for as both fight for Champions League football and automatic qualification to the Group Stage.

The following is a list of ten Manchester derby games that have had a real significance for one, or both of these clubs.

September 20th 2009: Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City
An early meeting between these rivals was significant as being the return of Carlos Tevez to Old Trafford having moved across the blue-red divide in Manchester over the summer. It ended up being a derby that was described as 'probably the best of all time' by Sir Alex Ferguson as the momentum shifted both ways before a late Michael Owen winner.

Mark Hughes would only be the manager at the Etihad Stadium for a further three months before being replaced by Roberto Mancini, but the performance from Manchester City against the reigning Champions and Champions League Runners Up from four months earlier showed the potential the club had with the investment provided by Sheikh Mansour.

January 27th 2010: Manchester United 3-1 Manchester City
Roberto Mancini had taken over at Manchester City and led the club through to the League Cup Semi Final where Manchester United were waiting in a two legged tie. After beating Manchester United 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City saw Carlos Tevez level the tie up late in the Second Leg at Old Trafford.

The game was all set to go into extra time to determine the Finalist, but Wayne Rooney popped up with an injury time goal that sent Manchester United through 5-4 on aggregate. Manchester City failed to reach their first domestic Final for 29 years and the team had suffered two agonising injury-time defeats to Manchester United during the season and surely couldn't be expected to suffer another such loss... Could they?

April 17th 2010: Manchester City 0-1 Manchester United
They could you know! For the third time in the 2009-10 season, Manchester United broke Manchester City hearts with an injury time goal as Paul Scholes popped up late to win this game at the Etihad Stadium.

It kept Manchester United in the hunt for a fourth consecutive Premier League title, while also denting Manchester City's chance of reaching the top four which might have slowed the club's development. However, it was inevitable that Manchester City would be a success with the amount of money being pumped into the club, while this game was also significant in being the first time Manchester City were favoured to beat their rivals in many a year by the 'experts'.

That alone showed the shift in how Manchester City were being perceived when it came to winning games and trophies.

February 12th 2011: Manchester United 2-1 Manchester City
It was a special moment from Wayne Rooney late in the day that separated the rivals on this occasion, but once again the signs were that Manchester City were not that far away from Manchester United in terms of ability on any given day.

The match was very even with this outstanding moment captured above the difference on the day and it also meant Manchester United were on their way to another Premier League success, the fourth in five years, while Manchester City's title challenge was dented on this day.

However, Manchester City were still very much on course for a top four finish and a Champions League place, while they would have some revenge later in the season that sparked a change in fortunes in the derby in the coming years.

April 16th 2011: Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
The FA Cup Semi Final was played at Wembley Stadium and was the moment that this group of Manchester City players finally saw they were capable of beating Manchester United in a really important game.

It was the two missed chances from Dimitar Berbatov in the first half that Manchester United fans will remember, but a Yaya Toure effort ended any chances of a repeat of 1999 for the Red Devils. Manchester United did win the Premier League to make up for this loss, but this was a significant moment for Manchester City.

Manchester City had reached their first FA Cup Final in thirty years and would later win their first piece of silverware for thirty-five years and was the moment that would spark the next few seasons of picking up trophies in a regular manner.

October 23rd 2011: Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City
Just months after that FA Cup Semi Final victory, Manchester City really announced their ability to compete with the best in England in a stunning win at Old Trafford. There were extenuating circumstances for the final scoreline including the fact that Manchester United had been reduced to ten men and inexplicably for chasing a game that saw them concede three times in the final few minutes of the game.

Just two years earlier Sir Alex Ferguson had described the derby win as 'possibly the best derby of all time' but he described this one as a 'terrible defeat' and 'worst ever day'.

No one could have predicted the significance the result would eventually have on the season though as Manchester City would win the title on goal difference over Manchester United.

April 30th 2012: Manchester City 1-0 Manchester United
The first Premier League game might have sent some shockwaves throughout Europe, but the second was considered the 'biggest game in twenty Premier League years' as Manchester United held a three point lead over Manchester City with three games left to play.

It was a game where Sir Alex Ferguson got his tactics wrong and gave Manchester City the impetus to win the game and take over at the top of the Premier League table with two games left thanks to a Vincent Kompany winner.

They still had to win the title the hard way, but this was the moment Manchester City took control having reeled in a big Manchester United lead in the table and the day the 'noisy neighbours' became more than a mere nuisance.

December 9th 2012: Manchester City 2-3 Manchester United
The two teams had another significant battle off the field in the summer of 2012 over Robin Van Persie when the Dutchman made it clear he wanted to leave Arsenal with his final destination being in Manchester.

During the course of the season, Roberto Mancini would claim Van Persie made the difference between these two rivals as the Premier League title was once again contested by them.

On this day, Mancini's words were spot on as Manchester City fought back from 0-2 down only to be undone by a last minute free kick from Van Persie. It was yet another injury time winner for Manchester United and one in a season that would eventually see Sir Alex Ferguson retire with another Premier League title winning medal in his pocket.

Roberto Mancini would also be relieved of his post as Manchester City manager and it would be all change when the teams met the following season.

September 22nd 2013: Manchester City 4-1 Manchester United
The title race was expected to be between Manchester City and Manchester United with perhaps Chelsea being their closest challengers at the beginning of this season. However, both Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes were managing in their first ever Manchester derby in this September meeting and perhaps the game signalled which way the two clubs would be going under their new management.

Games this early in the season shouldn't be that important, but the manner of the defeat became a feature of Manchester United performances under Moyes as United were blown apart early and often.

Pellegrini also saw his team display the ruthless attacking ability that would lead to two trophies later in the season, although they had to show their dominance over Manchester United one more time before winning the Premier League title.

March 25th 2014: Manchester United 0-3 Manchester City
A third consecutive home defeat to Manchester City was just another kick in the teeth for Manchester United fans and was another moment of disappointment for David Moyes in a miserable season in charge at Old Trafford.

Moyes didn't have long left in the hot-seat at Old Trafford as this defeat came off the back of a 0-3 home hammering at the hands of Liverpool and the disarray that had set in at Manchester United was highlighted in this one.

Any hope of success for United fans evaporated inside sixty seconds and the scoreline was reflective of the gulf between the teams. Finishing outside of the European positions was the fate left for Manchester United while Manchester City reeled in Liverpool and won the Premier League title for the second time in three seasons.

As we go into the second Manchester derby of the season, it does feel like the role has been reversed for Manuel Pellegrini as he is the manager under pressure this time around compared with his last visit to Old Trafford. It does look like a change will be made in the summer and I do wonder if the 0-3 win last season was the peak of the Manchester City success of recent years in this fixture.

The last three seasons have mainly seen Manchester City come out on top in the big games, but their group of players look like they might be coming to the end of their time together, while Louis Van Gaal seems to be building in the right direction.

A win for Manchester United on Sunday will certainly make it feel like there has been a significant shift back to the red half of Manchester and this has to be the most confident home fans have entered a derby since 2011.

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