Manchester Derby - Mario Balotelli celebrates a goal

10 defining moments in the Manchester Derby rivalry

Manchester City and Manchester United meet in the Manchester Derby this weekend, a fixture which has taken on huge significance across the last decade.

For so long a one-sided rivalry in favour of the red side of the city, Sheikh Mansour’s transformative takeover of Manchester City has since seen the Blue Moon rise across town.

The Citizens have replaced Manchester United as the Premier League’s dominant force, a power shift that has added spice and needle to their neighbourly conflict.

Ahead of this weekend’s showdown at the Etihad, we’ve remembered 10 defining moments from the Manchester City and Manchester United rivalry.

10 defining moments in the Manchester Derby rivalry:

Denis Law downs his old side

Denis Law represented both clubs with the best football of the 1964 Ballon d’Or winner’s career coming at Manchester United. Law scored 237 goals for the club and was part of their first-ever European Cup success in 1968.

The Scotland striker had spent time at Manchester City earlier in his career and returned to the Blues after being released at Old Trafford in 1973.

United’s decline after Sir Matt Busby stepped down as manager saw the Red Devils battling relegation during the 1973/74 campaign, with the penultimate fixture of the season a Manchester Derby at Old Trafford. Law’s 81st-minute backheel earned City a 1-0 win and, believing his goal had relegated Manchester United, the forward refused to celebrate.

The home fans invaded the pitch and the game was postponed, with the FA ruling the result should stand. Manchester United were relegated to the second tier just six years after being crowned European champions, though results elsewhere condemned the club to the second tier, regardless of the derby result.

Roy’s revenge as Keane sent off for Haaland horror tackle

There was no love lost between Roy Keane and Alf-Inge Haaland and the long-running feud between the midfielders reached boiling point in a Manchester Derby in 2001.

Haaland had angered the combustible Manchester United captain during his time at former club Leeds when the Norwegian accused Keane of playacting after sustaining an ACL injury in a tangle between the pair.

Four years later, Keane exacted his revenge with a horror tackle that has been replayed countless times since he sent Haaland somersaulting to the Old Trafford turf. Sent off and issued a three-match ban, Keane’s comments in his 2002 autobiography saw the Irishman slapped with a further five-game suspension.

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Speaking in his book, Keane said: “I’d waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c***. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

Welcome to Manchester, Carlos Tevez

Manchester City’s billionaire-backed takeover catapulted the club into the financial elite and, a year after the Abu Dhabi-led consortium arrived, the Citizens made their biggest statement yet.

Carlos Tevez was the headline signing of the 2009 transfer window, a player who not only demonstrated a desire to compete among the elite but one raided from a rival. The Argentine had spent the past two seasons on loan at Manchester United, winning back-to-back league titles and the Champions League, before turning down a permanent move in favour of the city’s new regime.

City, predictably, delighted in the arrival of the Argentine with the ‘Welcome to Manchester’ billboard the stuff of legend in the rivalry between the sides.

Alex Ferguson, meanwhile, was less than impressed: “The billboard in Manchester is just City all over, isn’t it? They are a small club with a small mentality and all they can talk about is Manchester United,” the Scot said.

Tevez became an important part of City’s ascent, scoring 73 goals in 148 appearances as the Blues began to emerge from the shadow of their neighbours.

Owen’s late, late winner settles greatest derby game

Manchester United snatched a dramatic winner to decide an engrossing derby contest in 2009, as Michael Owen’s 96th-minute goal sparked bedlam inside Old Trafford.

An end-to-end game had seen six goals evenly shared as the big-spending blues bloodied the nose of the defending champions, as the Citizens came back on three occasions to level. Craig Bellamy looked to have earned the visitors a point with a brilliant equaliser in the 90th minute, only for Owen to have the final say deep into the added period.

Ryan Giggs slid a pass into the feet of the summer signing, who prodded the ball past Shay Given to cue an eruption from the home crowd and conclude one of the Premier League’s greatest-ever games.

City had gone toe-to-toe with their biggest rivals in a show of their new-found strength, but it was Manchester United who snatched the win to remain the city’s top dogs. For the moment, at least.

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Rooney overhead erupts Old Trafford

A goal that needs no introduction.

Wayne Rooney decided a 2011 meeting between the teams with a spectacular strike, an audacious overhead kick that flew past Joe Hart at Old Trafford.

If there’s been a better Manchester Derby goal, we’re yet to see it.

Toure sends City towards drought-breaking trophy

Yaya Toure’s goal could be viewed as the turning point in Manchester City’s history, as the Citizens beat Manchester United 1-0 to reach the 2011 FA Cup final.

Toure’s decisive derby goal booked the Blues a place at Wembley before the Ivorian repeated the trick against Stoke in the final to secure the club’s first major trophy in 35 years.

United, who ended the season as champions and reached the Champions League final, were one of Europe’s top teams and this was a result to prove the ‘noisy neighbours’ were here to stay.

United hit for six as City send title statement

Manchester City produced a stunning performance to thrash Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford and take control of the title race in 2011.

The Citizens ran riot in the second half to inflict United’s heaviest home defeat since February 1955, while it was the first time the Red Devils had conceded six times in a home game for 81 years.

Mario Balotelli’s opening goal was followed by his iconic ‘Why Always Me?’ message, with the Italian and Edin Dzeko each on target twice. Sergio Aguero and David Silva were also on the scoresheet as Manchester United were hit for six on home soil.

The disbelieving blues celebrated a special success that indicated the balance of power in the city was beginning to shift significantly. To rub salt into a difficult-to-heal wound, Manchester United missed out on the Premier League title to City with virtually the last kick of the season – on goal difference.

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Kompany header turns title tide

Despite that thrashing of their arch-rivals earlier in the season, Manchester City were forced to come from behind to be crowned champions during the run-in.

Manchester United’s slips against Wigan and Everton had allowed the Citizens back into the race, ahead of a Manchester Derby meeting just three games from the final weekend. A win for City would hand them the initiative and take Roberto Mancini’s side top on goal difference, with Vincent Kompany scoring the goal that turned the title tide.

The City captain rose to power in a header from a set-piece, as the eventual champions clawed back the last of what had been an eight-point deficit with six games to go.


Though not a direct clash between the Manchester rivals, it’s hard to recall the tale of the two teams without that moment.

Manchester City needed to beat relegation-threatened QPR on the final day of the season to be crowned champions but found themselves 2-1 down in stoppage time at the Etihad. Up at Sunderland, Manchester United had earned a 1-0 win that looked to be enough to send another Premier League crown to Old Trafford.

Edin Dzeko’s goal restored hope before Sergio Aguero scored the defining goal of the Premier League era. The Argentine lashed home a stoppage-time winner to crown City champions, snatching the league from their biggest rivals with almost the last kick of the season.

If this had been a movie script, it would have been deemed far-fetched.

Gundogan keeps City on course for treble triumph

Manchester United’s treble-winning feat had been a unique achievement, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s side’s capture of the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the 1998/99 season unprecedented.

Over two decades later, Manchester City moved into position to match that achievement as Pep Guardiola’s team chased all three trophies in 2022/23. The Premier League title was secured after overhauling Arsenal in the run-in before a fierce foe stood in their path to cup success.

The first-ever Manchester Derby FA Cup final took place in 2023, with Manchester United handed a chance to stop the Citizens in their quest for the treble.

At Wembley, Ilkay Gundogan’s glorious goal inside 12 seconds became the fastest-ever FA Cup final goal, before the German struck a second after Bruno Fernandes’ equaliser to hand Manchester City the trophy.

Two from three secured, a 1-0 win over Inter Milan a week later etched City into football folklore.

Read – Midfield Magicians: David Silva – El Mago

See more – Noughties Nines: Wayne Rooney – An inimitable emergence

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