5 of the Most Memorable Manchester Derbies as City, United Head into FA Cup Final

LONDON (AP) — A look at five of the most memorable matches between Manchester City and Manchester United ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final:


The most famous Manchester derby of them all because of the identity of the goal scorer. Denis Law didn’t celebrate after backheeling the ball into the net in the 81st minute to give City the win against a club where he had spent 11 years and was part of the “Holy Trinity” also containing Bobby Charlton and George Best. Indeed, Law was substituted right away, leaving the field at Old Trafford with his head down, and didn’t play again for City. United was relegated from the top division that day, though it wasn’t purely because of the loss to City — as many wrongly claim — but because of results elsewhere on the final day of the season. Because of field invasions in the 85th minute, the match never actually finished but the result ended up standing.


Alex Ferguson called it his worst day in charge of United and it was understandable why, with his team falling to its biggest Premier League loss at the time and the club’s worst defeat at Old Trafford since 1955. The best-remembered goal was by Mario Balotelli, who — after scoring the opener in the 22nd minute — lifted up his City jersey to reveal a T-shirt with the message “Why Always Me?” on it. The game was played a day after emergency services were called to his house after a firework reportedly went off in Balotelli’s bathroom. A red card for United defender Jonny Evans early in the second half enabled City to run riot late in the game, scoring three times from the 90th minute. City, newly wealthy after being taken over by Abu Dhabi’s royal family in 2008, had arrived as a force and would go on to snatch the title from United on goal difference that season after Sergio Aguero’s stoppage-time goal in the final league match.


In terms of excitement, this was perhaps the best derby ever and it had a fitting finish with Michael Owen — coming on as a substitute — poking home the winning goal for United in the sixth minute of stoppage time. Ferguson, chewing gum in his inimitable way, did a jig on the touchline; City manager Mark Hughes — a former United player — shouted angrily at the officials. A past-his-best Owen had only been signed by United that year following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, the latter controversially going to City and making his first return to Old Trafford in this game. United squandered the lead three times, the third occasion in the 90th minute, only to pull through because of Owen’s greatest moment in a United shirt.


This match gains more modern-day relevance because of the presence of Erling Haaland in City’s current treble-chasing team. After all, it was his father, Alf-Inge, who played a central role in the game after he was on the end of a brutal knee-high challenge by Roy Keane that earned the United captain a red card at Old Trafford. Keane then leaned over Haaland — writhing in agony on the ground — and mouthed some obscenities before leaving the field, gaining belated revenge on the Norwegian who had accused Keane of feigning what proved to be a serious injury when they played against each other in 1997 (when Haaland was at Leeds). Haaland already had an issue with the left knee targeted by Keane and only played a few more games before being forced to retire. Would that incident ultimately prevent Erling from ever joining United, given what his father went through? Two decades later, Erling signed for City — a transfer Alf-Inge was heavily involved in — and is already breaking records there.


Was this the defining match that helped tip the balance of power in Manchester to the blue half of the city? The neighbors met in the FA Cup semifinals at Wembley Stadium, with City emerging victorious thanks to Yaya Toure’s second-half strike. City went on to win the cup, beating Stoke in the final to end a 35-year wait for a major trophy, and has dominated English soccer ever since with 15 trophies in the last 12 years. It will go down as one of the most significant goals in the club’s history and Toure spoke this week about the belief this victory over United — league champion and a Champions League finalist that season — gave City in the early stage of its Abu Dhabi-fueled growth. “It was a mark of the change that was happening,” Toure said. “There was a big celebration. The executives were on the train with us, they came into the dressing room to share our happiness. They were feeling like, ‘This is it now, change is coming now at Man City.’”



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