Its derby day in Manchester on Sunday as United host City in a game the Red Devils need to win to keep their Champions League qualification hopes alive.
It’s a fixture steeped in history and not always for the right reasons, with former players coming back to haunt their ex employer, sometimes in dramatic circumstances.
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We’re calling this article then the “Traitors of the Manchester derby” as we take a look at five of the most high-profile defections from red to blue and vice-versa.
Dennis Law was the king of Old Trafford and one of United’s holy trinity alongside Sir Bobby Charlton and George Best. By 1973 however, two of the most famous threesome in football had gone their separate ways – Sir Bobby had done the decent thing and retired while Best was exiled out in Majorca.
Dennis decided to stick around, as United appointed Tommy Docherty to try to breathe new life into an aging squad. Imagine Law’s surprise then, when he was in a boozer in his hometown of Aberdeen during the summer recess and saw his face on the television with the headline that he had been off-loaded by Docherty, despite promises of a new contract.
As the king abdicated his throne, City asked if he’d like to head across town and spearhead their attack and help his chances of making the Scotland squad for the 1974 World Cup in Germany. Law had previously spent a season at Maine Road in the early sixties so he (reluctantly) accepted the offer. Not even Law could have envisaged what was going to happen in April 74 when his cheeky back-heeled goal against United at Old Trafford, put the final nails in their coffin sending them down to Division Two.
As Bay City Rollers lookalikes invaded the pitch, the game was abandoned with the result standing. Law, who was visibly upset after scoring, trudged off a broken man.
“Eusebio and I say Kiddo” sung the United faithful to the tune of the Beatles’ Hello, Goodbye as teenage striker Brian Kidd scored on his 19th birthday to help the Reds to a famous European Cup Final win in 1968 against Benfica. As United headed into their Annus horribilis in ’74, the man from Collyhurst was shipped south to Arsenal before returning home to join City in 1976.
By now, “Kiddo” had a perm so large defenders were complaining that they almost suffocated when challenging for a header and maybe this was reflected in the statistics, which saw Kidd notch up 44 goals in 98 appearances for the blues. Having grown-up in the youth system at Old Trafford, it was perhaps inevitable that Brian would return to M16 to head up the youth development under new boss Alex Ferguson. And when he was promoted to Fergie’s assistant in 1991, he helped oversee the start of United’s domination of domestic football, including the never to be forgotten pitch invasion in their last-gasp home win over Sheffield Wednesday which all but secured United’s first league title in 26 years.
When Kidd fell out with Fergie he decided to step up into the managerial vacancy at Blackburn in 1998, but it was obvious that he wasn’t cut out to be the main man after his side were relegated and it would be another 11 years before he returned to his love of coaching youngsters, at Manchester City. Within three years he was orchestrating another pitch invasion, this time as assistant manager to City boss Roberto Mancini as Sergio Aguero’s late late strike gave the club its first league championship since 1968.
Arguably the greatest goalkeeper the Premier League has ever seen and one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest ever signings, Peter Schmeichel won everything the domestic game had to offer during eight years between the sticks at Old Trafford, despite playing with a permanent red nose (even in early August).
He also lifted the Champions League trophy with his gaffer at the Camp Nou in 1999 as United became the first side to do the treble in the same season. That summer, the Great Dane decided to head to pastures new joining Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon, before doing the unthinkable in 2002 and heading to Manchester City on a free-transfer from Aston Villa.
Schmeichel’s Manchester derby record is astonishing with the big man never having been on the losing side during his tenure at Old Trafford, then having the front to end up on the winning team in the Maine Road edition in 2002-03, before escaping from the Theatre of Dreams with a draw in the return.
To this day does anyone really know how Carlos Tevez ended up in English football at West Ham United? Whatever the circumstances surrounding his protracted arrival from South America in 2006, it was obvious that a player of such outstanding ability was always going to end up at one of the Premier League’s heavyweight clubs.
Nobody was surprised, then, when United took him to Old Trafford 12 months later on a two-year loan deal. As the 2009 season came to an end however and despite having helped Fergie and company to back to back league titles and another Champions League gong, United’s power brokers refused to stump up the money to take Carlos on a permanent deal.
Step forward Manchester City, who, backed by massive investment from new owners The Abu Dhabi United Group, had no qualms about shelling out 47 million quid offering the player a lucrative five-year deal. Tevez was voted the Players’ Player of the Year in his first season at The Etihad Stadium before being instrumental in City’s historic title winning campaign two years later.
Controversy was never far away however as Tevez blotted his copybook by holding up a sign that read “RIP Fergie” at City’s victory parade in 2012 in response to Sir Alex’s claims that the blue half of Manchester would never win the Premier League in his lifetime.
SIR MATT BUSBY
For a man who spent the best part of his playing career at Manchester City and Liverpool, it would have been hard to imagine at the time that Scottish inside forward Matt Busby would breathe new life into their biggest rival. That’s just what happened though when the man from Bellshill took over a (literally) burned out club at the end of the Second World War.
Old Trafford had been destroyed by a German bomb when Busby embarked on a managerial career that would transform Manchester United into one of the biggest clubs in world football, building two sides, one that would rise from the ashes of the Munich disaster to become the first English side to lift the European Cup in 1968.
For 24 years, City fans were only able to look across in envy at a dazzling array of United teams fashioned in Busby’s inimitable style that would become the benchmark for Old Trafford sides of the future, until David Moyes got his hands on the kingdom in 2013. Busby lived just long enough to see United win their first league title since his tenure at the club and just like those three other Scottish stalwarts Jock Stein, Bill Shankly and Sir Alex Ferguson, his legacy in British football will be passed down for generations to come.