The Manchester Derby

With one of the most impassioned rivalries in the Barclays Premier League upon us again this weekend, we take a closer look at the Manchester derby.

It's a rivalry that has polarised a city for 127 years, where the Reds of United take on the Blues of City. Always a highly anticipated, hotly contested affair, the match is one of the highlights of the season not just between the players, but between fans as well, writes Claire Harmer.

The match provides an opportunity for United fans to remind Blues supporters just how many trophies Sir Alex Ferguson's men have won in the past decade. And it's a chance for City fans to tease United stalwarts that their club is not actually in Manchester, with Old Trafford situated just outside the city boundaries.

Much of the rivalry is also built around the debate of which club is the more successful, with each having extended spells of dominance over the other. United have been a force in world football since the 1990s, with the standout highlight being their treble winning campaign of 1999. However it was City who were the most successful during the 1960s and 70s, winning several major trophies.

The history of the derby stretches back to the 12th November 1881, when St Mark's entertained their visitors, Newton Heath LYR. The Heathens ran out 3-0 winners, and so a passionate derby was born. St Mark's would be renamed Manchester City while, over time, Newton Heath would take the name that would become synonymous with football the world over - Manchester United.

Eventful day

The teams first met in the Football League on 3rd November 1894, when Newton Heath beat the now renamed Manchester City 5-2 at Hyde Road - City's former ground. In 1926, City recorded the biggest-ever victory in the derby - a comfortable 6-1 win over their neighbours.

Twenty years later, with Old Trafford in need of repair after sustaining damages during the Second World War, both clubs played their matches at City's Maine Road. The 0-0 draw that took place in the 1947/48 season recorded the largest attendance of a Manchester derby, a crowd of 78,000.

In the 1970s, the matches were renowned for their hard fought, battling style. An infamous fixture of the decade came on the last day of the 1973/74 season. United, on the verge of relegation, had to win at Old Trafford or face life outside of Division One. With 10 minutes remaining and the score at 0-0, former United turned City player Denis Law scored with a back-heeled effort to play his part in condemning the Red Devils. He refused to celebrate and was substituted shortly after. For 35-year-old Law it was his last contribution to professional football, as he announced his retirement in the close season.

Law is not the only player to have crossed the great divide and play for both United and City. Robert Milarvie was the first in 1891, paving the way for the likes of Billy Meredith, John Gidman, and Peter Barnes, plus legendary United manager Sir Matt Busby, who spent eight years of his playing career with City. Northern Ireland forward Sammy McIlroy, who spent a decade with the Red Devils in the 1970s, also had a short spell with City in the mid-80s.

Impressive record

And it is at Maine Road where McIlroy recalls one of his favourite memories, scoring on his surprise debut for United, 16 years before he went on to play for the Blues.

"I went along thinking they wanted me to help with the kit or something, only to be told at 11am that I was playing!" said McIlroy.

"When we came out of the tunnel, the noise was electrifying. I'd never heard anything like it."

In recent years, United goal-scoring hero Andy Cole moved to Manchester City five years after he left Old Trafford. After joining the Blues in 2005, he said: "It's an honour to have played for both Manchester clubs."

Like Cole, Peter Schmeichel moved to the Blues towards the end of his career. The legendary 'keeper can boast never being on the losing side in any Manchester derby he has played in. After nine years between the sticks for United, Schmeichel had short spells with Sporting Lisbon and Aston Villa, before joining City in the 2002/03 season. During his short spell with the Blues, he maintained his impressive record, after City won the Maine Road encounter, in his final derby match.

In the 2007/08 season, Schmeichel's son Kasper, a City academy graduate, was in goal as Sven-Goran Eriksson's side recorded a 1-0 home win over their neighbours. In doing so, Kasper, having never lost in a Manchester derby, was able to carry on his father's tradition.

Enemy territory

Since the Premier League was formed in 1992, United have had the upper hand, winning 12 of the 22 derby matches. Four of City's five wins have come at home, with the fifth being their historic 2-1 victory at Old Trafford in the 2007/08 season. There has been five draws.

Since the turn of the millennium, arguably the most memorable contest between the two came at Old Trafford last season. On the 50th anniversary of the Munich air disaster, City completed the league double over their rivals, having already beaten them 1-0 at the City of Manchester Stadium earlier in the season.

On an emotional day for all connected with the Old Trafford club, a minute's silence was impeccably observed, with both sets of fans given scarves to mark the occasion. United, in a replica kit circa 1958, lost their first match to City at Old Trafford since Denis Law helped to relegate his former club in 1974.

Eriksson's men completed an historic league double over their rivals thanks to goals from Darius Vassell and debutant Benjani Mwaruwari. United's Michael Carrick scored an injury time consolation, but it was not enough to prevent City from denting United's title hopes.

The Blues will be hoping they can stretch their impressive run against their neighbours just that little bit further when they take them on at the City of Manchester Stadium on Sunday 30th November. Fresh from a rousing 3-0 victory against Arsenal, Mark Hughes' men will fancy themselves to pull off another upset. And having had a tough Champions League encounter in midweek, a United side who have failed to find the net in their last two matches, might just find a match on enemy territory one ask too many.

Check back on on Sunday to discover which half of Manchester is celebrating.