Matches between Manchester City and Manchester United are nothing new; after all, the rivalry has lasted for 128 years. These days, pre-match banter usually begins with City fans pointing out that United do not come from Manchester, as Old Trafford lies outside the city boundaries in Trafford Borough. United fans, on the other hand, retort by stating the fact that their club has won over 20 major honours in the past 20 years, while City's last success came in 1976.
You have to look back to Saturday 12 November 1881 for the first meeting between the two sides, when St. Mark's (West Gorton), the future City, hosted Newton Heath, the future United. The game finished 3-0 to 'the Heathens' (United) and was described as "a pleasant match" by a local newspaper of the time. The first Football League meeting between the teams came in the 1894/95 season when Newton Heath defeated Manchester City 5-2 at Hyde Road, while the first top flight meeting occurred in December 1906, when City ran out 3-0 winners.
Facts and figures
There have been a total of 150 competitive matches between the teams. United have won 60 and City 41, with the remaining 49 games drawn. The biggest victory in a derby is claimed by the Citizens, who won 6-1 on 23 January 1926, and they also hold the record for the highest attendance for a derby: 78,000 on 20 September 1947 at Maine Road. Two former City players, Joe Hayes and Francis Lee, hold the record for being the top scorers in the fixture, with ten goals each.
Tales of derbies past
Matches between the two clubs had a real edge in the 1970s, with tempers often boiling over. In December 1970, George Best broke Glyn Pardoe's leg, which almost resulted in an amputation for the City defender such was the severity of the injury. In March 1974, City's Mike Doyle and Lou Macari both received red cards, but refused to leave the pitch, leading the referee to take both teams back to the dressing room until the players accepted their dismissals.
The penultimate game of the same season, however, is arguably the most famous match between the two sides. United needed a win to avoid relegation and also had to hope that other results went their way. In the 80th minute, Lee played the ball to United legend Denis Law, who instinctively back-heeled the ball past Alex Stepney and into the net. As his team-mates rushed to congratulate him, the consequences were not lost on the Scotsman, who refused to celebrate. "I have seldom felt so depressed in my life as I did that weekend. After 19 years of giving everything I had to score goals, I have finally scored one which I almost wished I hadn't."
Following the goal, Law was substituted and never played league football again. With the game approaching full-time, United fans poured on to the pitch, causing the referee to abandon the match. Yet, the result stood - and the Red Devils' relegation was confirmed. Results elsewhere would have ensured that United would have been relegated even if the match was drawn, but it is still remembered as they that the Lawman sent his old club down.
The rivalry today
Given the Red Devils' seemingly relentless search for silverware, fixtures between the two teams appear to have held less significance for Sir Alex Ferguson's side, who have enjoyed higher-profile battles with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds United and most notably north-west rivals Liverpool in recent years.
However, since the turn of the millennium, the most memorable encounter came last February in a match commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster at Old Trafford. Given the rivalry between both sets of supporters, a minute's silence was impeccably observed, as Ferguson and Sven-Goran Eriksson laid wreaths in memory of those who had lost their lives. The result also had historic significance. A 2-1 win for City gave them their first league ‘double' over United since 1970 and their first win at the ‘Theatre of Dreams' since the match made famous by Law in 1974.