Saturday’s Manchester derby is set up to go down in the history books as one of the greatest of all time. It’s pretty clear what’s on the line here; a Manchester City victory over local rivals that once dubbed them mere ‘noisy neighbours’, Manchester United, will see them win the Premier League title at the earliest point of the season any team has managed in the English top flight.
Indeed, although it may well be disrupted by some typically Machiavellian football from Jose Mourinho, Saturday’s 5.30pm kickoff could well prove to be one for the ages. But what about the Premier League meetings that have taken City and United to this point, and can previous encounters give us any clue about whether history will be made by City this weekend? Here’s a look at the complete Premier League history of the Manchester derby…
As Manchester’s historically inferior side, at least during the Premier League era, the fact Manchester City have won 13 of their 41 encounters with United is highly commendable. Indeed, although City failed to beat the Red Devils in the Premier League until 2002, they often embraced the underdog role to get the better of United during the 2000s – picking up five wins in 12 games between 2002 and 2008.
However, it’s in recent years where the balance of this fixture has truly swung in City’s favour, the Sky Blues winning eight of the last 13 meetings, compared to United’s mere four victories. But United will take huge confidence from the fact that, in spite of the Etihad Stadium being an impenetrable fortress this season, their away win rate in this fixture remains a staggering 50%, 15% better than the home side.
As United’s all-time record goalscorer, there’s many a Premier League fixture in which Wayne Rooney has fired his way to top scorer status. His overall strike rate, however, perhaps isn’t so spectacular – eight goals netted in 21 Premier League appearances, meaning there were 14 games in which the former England skipper failed to score.
Paul Scholes also earns a place in the top five through longevity but United fans will be most impressed with the return of the legendary Eric Cantona – he scored seven goals in as many league outings against City (albeit one for Leeds), the best haul of his Premier League career against a single club.
Andrei Kanchelskis, one of the few players to ply his trade with both clubs, scored all four of his goals against City for United, meaning the Sky-Blues’ only real representative is Sergio Aguero with seven strikes. It’s still unconfirmed whether he’ll be back for Saturday’s Manchester derby after being sidelined for the last month with a knee problem, but a brace would see him surpass Rooney as this fixture’s top scorer in the Premier League.
Perhaps hero is the wrong word for a player whose move across Manchester initially caused so much controversy, partly due to an infamous billboard and partly due to him essentially snubbing a permanent transfer to United, and then continued to cause controversy himself by notoriously refusing to come on as a substitute against Bayern Munich.
There was even a point when Tevez was told he’d never play for City again and his opinions of Manchester as a city were hardly complimentary. But it’s impossible to ignore the impact Tevez had at Old Trafford and then the Etihad Stadium. The Argentine was part of a forward line with Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo that won the Champions League title in 2008, and after his lengthy exile, he returned to the first team to help seal City’s first ever Premier League title in 2011/12.
Overall, Tevez scored 107 goals and provided 50 assists in 247 appearances for both Manchester clubs.
Sir Alex Ferguson described it as the greatest derby of all time, but it was also a signal of the balance of power changing in Manchester. While Man City may have eventually succumbed to defeat through Michael Owen’s last minute winner, this was one of the first occasions in which the noisy neighbours truly matched United in terms of pure quality, rather than relying on the derby-day defiance they’d often shown previously.
Indeed though, it was a rather incredibly ninety minutes. United took the lead three times and City equalised three times, Darren Fletcher popping up with an unlikely brace of headers and Carlos Tevez providing two assists against his former employers. The Argentine could have found the net too, but his effort in the first half cannoned off the post, and United had more opportunities as well – only to find an in-form Shay Given standing in their path.
Overall, this match was a fantastic endorsement of forward-thinking football, and also provided a precursor of how close the rivalry would be over the course of the next few years as City and United regularly battled it out for the English crown.