These days the Manchester Derby is one of the biggest games in England. But there was a time when City vs. United was closer in stature to Aston Villa vs. West Brom— that is, if you weren’t a local, you probably didn’t care.
If you are Mancunian though, boy oh boy is this a big day in your life.
The history behind the Manchester Derby is as deep and as real as my love for pizza (which is really saying something). The antipathy between the two clubs is older than Sir Alex Ferguson, older than Emirati Sheikhs, older than David Beckham colognes or Mario Balotelli undershirts or Marouane Fellaini’s hair. To give you an idea, here’s a highlight reel from January 29, 1955, when City hosted United at Maine Road in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup.
As the narrator mentioned, United had a pretty good record against City in the Cup heading into the match. And while this squad predated the famous Busby Babes by a season, this was still a team managed by Matt Effing Busby. So the Red Devils came out of the tunnel expecting a good result.
Which probably made them feel even worse at the final whistle. The home side went up a goal early thanks to inside forward Joe Hayes. United’s hopes for getting back into the game were cruelly dashed when central defender Allenby Chilton was sent off. City settled the tie when Don Revie—yes, that Don Revie—poked in a second goal from a corner kick, sending the Sky Blues into the next round and the 75,000 in attendance home happy. City two, United nil.
(If you missed it the first time around, go back to 1:25 and see #10 Johnny Hart execute the most timid, regretful nutmeg you’ll ever see.)
Goals, red cards, huge crowds, high stakes. The Manchester Derby was always a big deal. It just took a while for the rest of the country to catch up.
City travel to Old Trafford on Sunday in a match that will go a long way toward deciding what the top four looks like at the end of next month. Kickoff is at 11 a.m. EST. Schedule your brunch plans accordingly.