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HomeOpinion/FeaturesThe Premier League's Greatest Games: Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City

The Premier League’s Greatest Games: Manchester United 4-3 Manchester City

There was a time when Manchester United fans celebrating a late Michael Owen winner at Old Trafford would have been unimaginable. 

But in 2009 they did so with gusto, as the former Liverpool striker broke Manchester City hearts right at the death when the two rivals faced off in one of the most compelling Manchester derbies of all time.

The encounter felt like the most significant meeting between the Manchester clubs in a long time, coming a year after Manchester City were bought up by Sheikh Mansour, which precipitated a big summer of spending – and the arrival of Carlos Tevez to Eastlands.

 

Tevez was, quite literally, the poster-boy of a new era for the big-spending blues, who had opened the Premier League season with four consecutive wins. There was rising confidence from City quarters that this was the start of a shift in the balance of Mancunian power.

The derby got off to a furious start, as Wayne Rooney opened the scoring for Manchester United after two minutes. City didn’t take too long to get back into the game, as Tevez stole the ball from the hapless Ben Foster to set up Gareth Barry for the equaliser.

The Argentine striker had returned to his old stomping to haunt Alex Ferguson and co. following his treasonous summer move. Despite playing a key role in winning the Champions League with Manchester United in 2008, Tevez found himself out of favour with the Scot. Thus, he had no issue with signing for the enemy.

The second half kicked off at breakneck speed as well, as Darren Fletcher met a perfectly floated cross into the danger area from Ryan Giggs. Craig Bellamy wasted little time in finding a second City equaliser, cutting inside from the left before rifling the ball into the far corner.

Fletcher repeated the trick with just over ten minutes remaining, with the Scottish midfielder heading home from a swinging Giggs free kick. But City’s persistence, and incompetent defending from their hosts, saw them find a way back in once more.

Rio Ferdinand inexplicably gave the ball away under very little pressure, allowing Bellamy to race down the left. From an acute angle the Welshman somehow squeezed it past Foster, who provided the forward just enough daylight to find City’s third equaliser of the day in the 90th minute.

The City contingent celebrated inside Old Trafford and that should have been enough to secure a point, but there was one more twist in the tale.

As the clock ticked into the sixth minute of injury time, substitute Michael Owen waved his arms like a madman to gain the attention of Giggs. The City defence had left him in an ocean of space on the left, so the midfielder duly obliged.

With a perfect pass he found Owen, whose finishing instincts kicked in as he poked the ball past Shay Given. Once a thorn in the side of United, he wheeled away in celebration as the red masses lost their everloving minds.

City manager Mark Hughes, no stranger to receiving plaudits from the Old Trafford crowd in his playing days, tapped his watch in disgust at the assistant referee after the game went over the four minutes of injury time that flashed up on the fourth official’s board.

In a dramatic derby, United had left it late to claim bragging rights. For so long the dominant force in both this rivalry and the Premier League, the Red Devils had staved off the threat of their ‘noisy neighbours’. For now, at least.

Ensuing clashes between City and United have been more meaningful in terms of the Premier League table, but none have equalled the sense of breathlessness with which this tie provided us.

Iconic Performances – Brilliant Berbatov downs Liverpool at Old Trafford

Midfield Magicians – The underrated metronome Michael Carrick

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