Early in the 2009/10 season, Manchester United hosted their ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City in the first Manchester derby of the season. Old Trafford was the scene of one of the greatest derbies in living memory.
Manchester United v Manchester City – The Game
It was an early-season occasion as Manchester City made the short trip across the city to face their bitter rivals. Carlos Tevez, having played in this fixture numerous times for the hosts, lined up among the visiting team for the first time.
The atmosphere was raucous and the nerves from the 75,000 strong crowd inside Old Trafford were clear. To ease tension, on the United side of the ball at least, Wayne Rooney put the hosts into the lead after just two minutes of the game.
After some good work by Patrice Evra down the left, Rooney picked the ball up in a crowded six yard box and squeezed it past Shay Given at his near post to send Old Trafford wild early on.
It didn’t take City long to respond as after Gareth Barry leveled up the scores in the 16th minute. After a seemingly wasted ball down the wing, Ben Foster in the United goal came out to get the ball. Instead of kicking it clear, he tried to shepherd the ball into the area so he could pick it up… but Carlos Tevez was lurking.
The Argentine’s tenacity allowed him to get there before Foster had picked it up and take the ball from him. He then had the presence of mind to lay it back to Gareth Barry at the edge of the area who swept it home leveling up the scores.
That was the end of the scoring in the first half but, it didn’t take long for a goal to happen in the second period as Darren Fletcher nodded home to give United their lead back after just four minutes of the second period.
Once more, United’s lead didn’t last long. Craig Bellamy pulled the scores level with an absolute stunner from the edge of the area just three minutes after Fletcher’s goal.
Later on in the game, it was the same two scorers who would pop up as the game neared it’s climax.
In the 80th minute, Darren Fletcher buried another header to give United a 3-2 lead – once more sending Old Trafford wild. BUT, we weren’t done there…
As the game entered its dying embers, Craig Bellamy latched onto a pass down the left wing and used his blistering pace to leave the defenders in his wake. He reached the area and ran to the byline before squeezing it past a hapless Ben Foster at the near post. 3-3, surely that’s it?
No. Not quite yet. At this point, Sir Alex Ferguson was gesticulating like crazy on the sideline, pushing his team forward, kicking and heading every ball. Meanwhile, City boss and United legend Mark Hughes is screaming at the referee, pointing to his watch.
In the 96th minute, veteran Ryan Giggs picked up the ball 30 yards from goal. Instead of shooting or just lifting it into the area, he lifted his head and picked out super-sub Michael Owen, who was still very new around those parts at that time…
Owen took the ball in his stride in the way you would expect a veteran striker to, looked up to see where his former Newcastle teammate Shay Given was in the City net and prodded the ball past him right in front of the Stretford End. Cue sheer pandemonium.
What a finish that was to the game. Fergie went nuts on the sideline, Sparky was equally as lively – livid that the whistle hadn’t gone for full-time long before that could happen. Fergie time strikes again, Manchester United pick up all three points.
What a game. For me, it was the best Manchester Derby I’ve had the pleasure to watch during my lifetime. It goes down as one of the best games in Premier League history in my opinion.
What did the Manchester Derby mean for the season?
As for the season itself, this game meant quite little due to the fact it was merely the sixth game of the campaign for each of the sides.
The 2009/10 Premier League was won by Chelsea, but Manchester United ran them very close. In the end, Sir Alex’s men finished in second place, a singular point behind the eventual champions.
Manchester City were some way behind that in the end, finishing fifth in the league. They were still relatively new to the upper reaches of the Premier League at that time, having been taken over just a year or so earlier.
Obviously they would go on to produce some incredible seasons and teams over the next decade, but this was the very start of the Manchester City we know today.
During the season, Sir Alex coined the phrase ‘Noisy Neighbours’ for the first time – something City would embrace in the coming seasons.
This Manchester Derby, for me, signified the beginning of a new phase in the history of the rivalry between the two Manchester clubs. For the first time in a long time, they were both at a similar level, and they were both pushing for silverware. This game was evidence of that.