One of the most eagerly anticipated games of the Premier League season, for neutral and supporter alike, is the Manchester Derby. Always a passionate rivalry between Manchester’s two clubs; a rivalry that has intensified in recent years since Manchester City’s takeover, which has allowed them to compete with Manchester United, who for many years were streets ahead of City. However, for such a big rivalry between two of Britain’s top sides, the matches between the two sides have often not been the best games of football and looking back there have been few genuinely exciting games in recent years.
Of course, there was the 4-3 Manchester United victory in September 2009, which was seen by many people on both sides of the divide as a potential turning point for how the fixture is viewed. Yes, as usual, United had won, but City had shown a lot of fight and, apart from a last minute winner for United, came very close to matching their rivals. From a United point of view, Jordan Farren of UTD Report and Vavel, believes that the 2009/10 season was a fantastic advert for this fixture, as it brought this game, as well as an exciting two-legged League Cup semi final, in which City won the first leg, but United fought back to win the second, not to mention late drama in the fixture at the Etihad Stadium, when a last minute Paul Scholes goal stole the points for United. As a City fan, these games were, of course, painful; to see my side lose three times to our biggest rivals in late circumstances is never easy to watch. However, these games certainly showed that City could pose a credible threat to United.
Despite this, since this season, the games have often lacked intensity. Of course, both sides have had games they’ve enjoyed. Manchester City fans fondly remember comprehensive beatings of United in recent years, such as the 1-6 win at Old Trafford in October 2011 and the 4-1 home win in September 2013, whilst United fans will fondly remember the 4-2 home win in 2015, in which they completely outclassed City, not to mention Marcus Rashford’s Manchester Derby debut, in which he outplayed veteran Martin Demichelis to earn United a win at the Etihad Stadium. However, none of these games were genuinely hard fought games of football with both teams giving the other something to worry about, these were often comprehensive beatings, which, whilst thoroughly enjoyable for the fans, weren’t especially exciting for neutrals. Whilst there have been a handful of exiciting games – United’s 3-2 win at the Etihad in December 2012 sticking out as an outstanding game of football – the fixture doesn’t always generate great games of football; something both the North London Derby and the Merseyside Derby has done on numerous occasions.
So what for the future? The appointment of Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho, two managers with a successful past and an intense rivalry to boot, has the potential to give this fixture a new lease of life. Certainly, September’s fixture, in which City narrowly won 2-1, was a significantly more interesting game to watch than either of the previous season’s games. However, both managers also have a reputation for leaving clubs after not many years have passed. In addition to this, the fixture could also struggle to improve as the rivalry between the fans has one significant weakness: only one half of the city views it as the biggest game of the season. It is no secret that, whilst United fans have certainly taken more notice of City recently, that their biggest rivalry lies with Liverpool FC and that is the game that both they and the team turn up for most. Jordan Farren believes that, as a result of this, the game is highly unlikely to surpass El Classico in Spain or The Old Firm Derby in Scotland in terms of rivalry.
What do you think? Do you believe that this Derby has been less exciting in recent years than it should have been or do you think that this game is still one of the most exciting in the Premier League?
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