On Derby Day in Manchester




On derby day in Manchester
the city is cut in two
the Blues and the Reds invade the streets
and if your team wins, the city belongs to you

These are the words of the esteemed philosopher Eric Cantona, a man whose magnificent seven appearances in Manchester derbies between December 1992 and May 1996 were enough to make quite the lasting impression on the flamboyant Frenchman.

With the final derby of the season this Thursday, we’ve taken a trip down memory lane to look at six of the best from yesteryear; from blow-out defeats to back-and-forth wars.

From Best and Bell to Robson and Rösler, the fixture’s history is a long and colorful one, taking in landmark appearances from a number of Manchester’s greatest footballing heroes. But while history hands United the edge, will the city be red or blue come Friday morning?

December 1970
Manchester United 1 Manchester City 4

Manchester City’s biggest win at Old Trafford in years was enough to get United manager Wilf McGuinness the sack in wake of this 1970 encounter. After City had seized an early lead through Mike Doyle’s headed opener, the Blues were rocked by the loss of Glyn Pardoe; the former FA Cup, League Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and First Division winner suffering a broken leg in a tackle with United’s George Best. Faring commendably in spite of the setback, City would double their advantage when striker Francis Lee (pictured) snatched at a shot that found its way through a cluster of players and into the United net. Two became three after the legendary Colin Bell intercepted to launch a City counter attack, with Mike Summerbee delivering a fine cross from the right and Lee doing enough to force the ball past rookie goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer. The Blues then found themselves four goals ahead when Lee headed in a fine final ball from substitute Arthur Mann to complete his hat-trick. Future City coach Brian Kidd would strike back for United, controlling well and firing home on the turn to restore a semblance of pride for the home side. Nevertheless, Joe Mercer’s Citizens were able to keep Best, Law and Charlton all at bay and complete a famous 4-1 derby demolition.

Francis Lee

October 1974
Manchester United 1 Manchester City 0

1974 is remembered for the infamous Denis Law backheel that gave City the spoils on a derby day that saw his beloved United condemned to relegation. However, October 1974 saw Second Division United come roaring back, the Reds knocking their familiar foes out of the League Cup as the sides renewed their rivalry at Old Trafford. With Law now retired, a total of six Scotsmen lined up for Tommy Doherty’s United, yet it was Irishman Gerry Daly who would settle this midweek Manchester derby; scoring the game’s only goal from the penalty spot. United would go on to reach the League Cup semi-finals that season, a welcome boost for a Reds side who would secure promotion back to the top flight at the first time of asking. The October 1974 derby however is perhaps most significant as it marked the United debut of a young Arthur Albiston. Full-back Albiston would make almost 500 appearances for the club, winning multiple trophies across his 14-year stint at Old Trafford. With his Football League bow still to follow, the 1-0 win over City would be the first of his many clean sheets.

October 1982
Manchester United 2 Manchester City 2

John Bond’s Citizens stretched their unbeaten run against United to five games with this 2-2 draw at Old Trafford. The Blues found themselves ahead only 12 minutes into this 1982 collision when Geordie winger and former England international Dennis Tueart headed home from Kevin Reeves’ flick-on. Tueart had made his mark with the overhead kick winner in City’s 1976 League Cup Final triumph over Newcastle United. He would later play a significant role behind the scenes following the club’s move to the Etihad Stadium. City extended their lead after the break as striker David Cross, the former Golden Boot winner, capitalised on Graham Baker’s deft delivery to brush the ball past United goalkeeper Gary Bailey. However, the ever-resilient Reds would battle back into the frame, with forward Frank Stapleton netting a sensational 53rd-minute effort from outside the box to reduce the arrears. City looked to score a third, only for Bailey to deny Tueart with a fine, one-handed save. The pendulum however would swing once more when Kevin Moran’s dangerous ball found its way to the back post and Stapleton made no mistake to level the derby with ten minutes to play. Dubliner Stapleton would return to thwart the Blues again later in the season…

March 1983
Manchester City 1 Manchester United 2

Having netted twice in the 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, Stapleton helped himself to another double in the return at Maine Road, as United fought their way to a 2-1 win. City had led the derby thanks to Kevin Reeves, who headed the ball through Gary Bailey’s legs to delight the home crowd. The Reds though would soon turn the tables, securing their first win at Maine Road in four attempts. For the equaliser, United winger Steve Coppell surged down the right flank and powered over a perfect cross for Stapleton to head past goalkeeper Joe Corrigan. The Irishman almost scored another after getting on the end of a Ray Wilkins free-kick, only for City’s Corrigan to this time come up trumps. Ultimately though, the Irish forward would win their personal duel, beating Kevin Bond to the ball while running away from goal and directing a downward header that proved too hot for Corrigan to handle. For the two Manchester giants, 1983 was somewhat of a pivotal year and come the end of the season, the contrast between their fortunes could hardly be greater. With United en route to a top three finish and a pair of Wembley finals, rivals City would be consigned to relegation.

September 1985
Manchester City 0 Manchester United 3

A resurgent Manchester City returned to the top flight in the autumn of 1985 but would quickly have their wings clipped by an inspired Manchester United side, who would win all ten of their opening ten league outings. With United starting on the front foot, Norman Whiteside forced City’s Mick McCarthy into a near-suicidal back pass, causing chaos in the penalty area and forcing out-of-position goalkeeper Alex Williams (in his final appearance) to bring down United’s PFA Young Player of the Year, Mark Hughes. Bryan Robson dispatched the resulting spot kick and by the 20th minute, Ron Atkinson’s Reds were two goals to the good; Arthur Albiston blasting home United’s second in spectacular fashion from all of 25 yards. City would eventually stop the rot, but would find frustration in their attempts to reduce the deficit. The outcome was put beyond all doubt when Mike Duxbury netted United’s third, capitalising on a rebound after scourge of Citizens, Stapleton (pictured in 1986), had seen his own effort cannon off the crossbar. On a derby day that saw each of the home nations represented in the United line-up, the famous Blue Moon had again been obscured by skies of red. 

Man City's Mick McCarthy and United's Frank Stapleton challenge in 1986

April 1996
Manchester City 2 Manchester United 3

By 1996, Manchester United had affirmed their position as perennial Premier League contenders. Undeterred, Alan Ball’s battling Blues were part of a real game at Maine Road, coming from behind on two occasions against Alex Ferguson’s champions-elect. The performance would gave the relegation-fighting Citizens new hope of survival, though the match started in disastrous fashion, as second generation star Nicky Summerbee chopped down dashing Denis Irwin to concede a penalty with only six minutes played. Resplendent with upturned collar, in what would prove his final Manchester derby, Eric Cantona sidefooted home the spot kick. City’s response would be emphatic, as Niall Quinn redirected a cross into the path of debutant Mikheil Kavelashvili and the Georgian international tapped past Peter Schmeichel to join countryman Georgi Kinkladze as an instant hero of the Maine Road faithful. However, United would reclaim their advantage barely a minute later; Cantona playing in Andy Cole, who weathered the bobbly surface to finish into the bottom corner. After Schmeichel took a hit to the face to deny Kavelashvili his second, City struck again through German forward Uwe Rösler. The future manager forced United’s Steve Bruce onto the back foot, before unleashing a powerful effort from the edge of the box, soaring into the net. Ultimately though, Cantona would hold the key to the Citizens’ undoing, with the Frenchman demonstrating sheer strength and vision to set up Ryan Giggs for the crowd-deflating winner. At the height of their Britpop pomp, Oasis would play two sell-out dates at Maine Road later in the month. Some might say City would find a brighter day. AC

Eric Cantona vs City

This Thursday’s Manchester derby at the Etihad will be the 174th meeting between the clubs, with United earning 72 victories to City’s 50 and 51 of the matches ending in a draw. Whether your colours are red or blue, Kitbag.com has a number of retro replica jerseys for fans of both Manchester sides; with the latest City and United home, away and third shirts also in stock.


  1. Archive Photography by Action Images

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