Five weeks ago, the Manchester Derby on Sunday looked like a decisive fixture in deciding the Premier League title.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United and Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City were separated by just one point on January 27, and their decade-old rivalry looks like it would come to the wire at the Manchester City Stadium.
The game of football is replete with famous rivalries, but none comes close to the intra-city animosity that pits fans from the same locale against each other.
Here’s our look back at the defining moments of Manchester derbies in the Premier League.
140 YEARS OF HISTORY
The rivalry between both the clubs started well before the clubs took their modern shape or form. The first friendly fixture was played between Newton Heath and West Gorton clubs on 12th November 1881, with both the teams later changing their names to Manchester United and City respectively.
When both the teams started competing in the top-flight divisions of English football, Manchester fans supported both the teams equally, there were no “red” and “blue” cities yet.
The origins of the rivalry can be traced back to the 70s when controversial on-field incidents led to a spate of injuries and fans became slowly polarised in support of their teams.
The behaviour of United fans in the 73/74 Manchester Derby when they invaded the pitch to halt the match and prevent their team from getting relegated riled up emotions on both sides. It slowly catalysed the divisions in Manchester, which came to a head with the introduction of the Premier League.
PREMIER LEAGUE ERA: UNITED’S EARLY DOMINANCE
While the derbies between both the clubs were competitive right up until the start of the 90s, United’s fortunes started to diverge from that of their city rivals.
The Red Devils remained unbeaten throughout the decade against Citizens – so complete was their dominance that the derby was relegated to the back of Premier League’s prominent fixtures.
The first Manchester derby following the creation of the Premier League was a 2–1 win for United at Old Trafford on December 6, 1992.
One of the finest derbies took place in the 93/94 season when United overturned a two-goal deficit at Maine Road to beat the Citizens 3-2.
City’s relegation to the English Football League at the end of the 95/96 season left the Red Devils as the premier club of Manchester, and City fans had to wait three years for the next derby in the Premier League.
Alex Ferguson’s United were the dominant team in the Premier League for most of the 90s. Only the arrival of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal and the rise of Chelsea in the early 2000s spiced up the Premier League race, and the three teams shared the title amongst themselves in the two decades.
These rivalries overshadowed the Manchester Derby, which became a pale shadow of its former self. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United won 13 of the 22 premier league matches against rivals City between 1993 and 2008.
RESURGENCE OF MANCHESTER CITY
It was the injection of money that turned around the fortunes of Manchester City as the club saw the induction of high profile players with their newly-found war chest.
The City Ticker banner, which showed the years since City’s last trophy, climbed to 35 much to the suffering of City fans. However, the banner was quickly put to an end as City ended their trophy drought by winning the FA Cup in 2011.
The 2010/11 season was a two-horse race for the title between both the teams and Manchester City announced their ascent with a 6-1 butchering of United at Old Trafford.
Both the teams were level in points before heading into their final fixtures. United won their tie 1-0 against Sunderland and the Red Devils needed only a draw by City to claim the title.
They were anxiously waiting for the clock to run out at Etihad as the Citizens were losing 2-1 against QPR. But a remarkable victory against QPR, with a Sergio Aguero goal in the last minute sealed the title for Citizens in one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of football.
POST FERGUSON ERA: CITY’S DOMINANCE
Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement led to struggles at Old Trafford as the team management failed to find a manager worthy to replace the shoes of the legend.
As Pep Guardiola converted his team into a winning machine, the Red Devils sunk even further down. Five of the last nine league meetings between the Manchester clubs have ended in favour of City, an extension of their dominance over other clubs.
After a long wait, Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s Manchester United looked like they had a decent shot at the title this year.
City have also looked a little out of form last season and United fans had upped their hopes, but the fortunes of both the teams have diverged in recent weeks much to the disappointment of fans at Old Trafford.
City have cruised away in the past five weeks – they sit 14 points ahead of second-placed United, improving the gap from just one point that separated both the teams five weeks ago.
What was supposed to be a title-deciding contest instead looks like a coronation ceremony for Manchester City.
HEAD TO HEAD
Total Matches Played: 184
Manchester United Wins: 76
Manchester City Wins: 55
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