One of those engrossing Premier League clashes that truly had it all. Hyped up in the weeks before kick up so much to the point that you’re not sure whether it’s a football match anymore or in fact WWE Raw showdown; when these matches live up to their billing, it’s a thing of beauty.
Unless, of course, you’re Mark Hughes or your allegiances lie with Manchester City, in which case, Michael Owen’s 96th-minute winner at Old Trafford in 2009 is a memory best left hidden under the canvas, never to be spoken of again.
Only five matches into the 2009/10 season and the only oddity was that Aston Villa had sneaked their way into the top six. City had enjoyed a storming run, winning each of their first four, with Manchester United doing likewise.
So when proceedings kicked off and Wayne Rooney had given the Red Devils a second-minute lead, City were forced into an early reality check. But then so were United. After all, they had Ben Foster in goal, and he basically kissed goodbye to a career with the club here and then.
His gaffe against returning nemesis Carlos Tevez set Gareth Barry up to level matters in embarrassing fashion. Unsung hero Darren Fletcher decided he wanted a piece of the action, bagging himself a brace of headers either side of perennial hothead Craig Bellamy’s stunner.
A Welshman was set to have the final say, and as much as Ryan Giggs would’ve liked to claim that honour, it was Bellamy’s raw pace that made Rio Ferdinand look like a fool, meanwhile Foster did his best to ease the ridicule aimed at his teammate.
Introduced with 12 minutes to go, however, was a certain Michael Owen. His hammer blow would strike 18 minutes later, though, not 12. How, you ask? Good ol’ Fergie time, that’s how. Giggs, looking to one-up Bellamy, slid a 96th minute pass into the Ballon d’Or winner’s path and he sent Old Trafford bouncing with a neat, trademark finish.
A good game? A bloody fantastic game.
Key Talking Point
‘Upset the status quo?’, ‘Throw your money into the hat and expect your fortunes to change?’, ‘BLUE?!?! Who even likes the colour blue?’
These are probably some of the thoughts that United fans and staff alike were having when the mega bucks started flowing into the City piggy bank. With one season of investment behind them, and zero points against their bitter rivals to show for it, the Red Devils were pretty chuffed with the rate of City’s progress. Another season another window of opportunity, though, as more money was pumped into City and they came calling at Old Trafford with four wins from four at the start of the season. Worried? Probably. Did it show much? Not especially.
This was by no means vintage United. Defensively it was a horror show from both sides, but they pummeled the City goal for long periods with Shay Given keeping them at bay for the most part. Going back and forth throughout, was United’s dominance of the city faltering? Were these newly invigorated enemies set to announce themselves? Not today they weren’t.
So when their free transfer signing popped up with the goods in the 96th minute it must have felt oh so sweet. Watching their former man Tevez fail to net on his first visit back following his acrimonious £26m move, only for Owen to rub it in his face, well, they’re probably still grinning.
Manchester United Player Ratings
Starting XI: Foster (4); O’Shea (7), Vidic (6), Ferdinand (4), Evra (7); Park (7), Fletcher (9), Anderson (8), Giggs (9); Berbatov (7), Rooney (8).
Substitutes: Valencia (7), Owen (8), Carrick (N/A).
Truly outstanding on the day, despite the goals of Darren Fletcher and the heroics of Owen, nobody was taking the man-of-the-match crown off Ryan Giggs’ head. In his usual machine-like self, he covered every blade of grass and was nigh-on unmarkable to any of the City back four. Age? Tis but a number.
Key Talking Point
‘We’re going to come in and upset your status quo!’, ‘We’ve got money to spend and we’re not afraid to use it’, ‘RED?!?! Who even likes the colour red?’
? “Man City made 10-15 offers for the best players in the world”
Mark Hughes recalls the time Man City signed Robinho back in 2008! ?
It’s ICYMI with Tag Heuer… pic.twitter.com/rzjyd8ooYy
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) February 1, 2020
Probably (but probably not) some of the murmurings heard in the blue half of Manchester went a little something like this. After the money rolled into town, the expectancy within the Citizens’ fanbase was through the roof – tenth-place finish last season or not.
With four wins on the bounce, this was meant to be the day. Harassing the United backline when the could with their shiny new players was the aim, even if they had to sustain large amounts of pressure for spells in the match. Yet, it looked like it was actually going to be their day, given the sheer calamity of defending and goalkeeping that was on show in the home end of Old Trafford.
Bellamy was making his mark, scoring a magnificent equaliser followed by another impressive solo effort with the clock ticking down. But, as Hughes should really know by now, when the board shows up four minutes on Fergie’s patch, it sure as hell ain’t going to actually be four minutes.
So when the defence parted like the Red Sea and that hammer blow came, they should have maintained focus. Sadly, today wasn’t to be City’s announcement. However, you get the feeling it may come later. Just, maybe.
Manchester City Player Ratings
Starting XI: Given (8); Richards (4), Lescott (6), Toure (6), Bridge (6); Wright-Phillips (5), Barry (7), De Jong (7), Ireland (5); Bellamy (8), Tevez (7).
Substitutes: Petrov (N/A).
As much as Shay Given was fantastic, it just feels a bit off to hand him this individual gong considering he let four goals in, doesn’t it? It’s not like we’re just picking the best of the rest, mind you, because Bellamy was a menace throughout.
Passionate as you’d always expect, fighting for every ball and screaming orders at his teammates, it was typical Bellamy. Throw in an utterly stunning goal as well as a hard-fought other, and he’s one who can hold his head up high…if he had a neck to do so with, that is.
What Aged the Worst?
Mark Hughes managerial career didn’t quite kick on from this game. They beat West Ham immediately after this match in the Premier League, but then went on a totally barmy run of drawing their next seven matches, and just four games after that, he was sacked. Fulham, QPR, Stoke and Southampton read next on his CV, and only at Stoke did he manage to last for more than 43 games.
Owen was a free transfer, so there wasn’t exactly much pressure on him to perform. He scored a few more after that, but it really was just a few. He’d reached his peak pretty early on at Old Trafford after this showing, and the fizzling out had already begun. Best forget about Stoke.
Another one to add to the pile: United’s home kit that season. The addition of the Mighty Ducks’ flying V might have had meaning, but it looked pretty darn naff.
What Aged the Best?
Does Giggs count? Of course it does. The Welshman was inching closer to his 36th birthday for this clash, but he was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch with a fabulous, turn the clock back kind of display. You only wish all top footballers could be that good for that long.
What Happened Next?
6 – In October of 2011-12, Manchester City beat Manchester United 6-1 at Old Trafford; it was the first time Manchester United had conceded 6+ league goals at Old Trafford since September 1930 versus Newcastle (7). Backyard. #OptaPLSeasons pic.twitter.com/DXA7slRKIi
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 17, 2020
United were pipped to the Premier League post by a single point that season, with their two losses to Chelsea ultimately proving to be their downfall as the Blues secured top spot.
Hughes didn’t last long before he was given the chop, which unceremoniously came after City had just won a game. It was well known news anyway, though, so at least he got to sign off with a victory. Roberto Mancini came in and was instantly adored, winning the title in 2012.
Moving on a bit further than that, City are now undoubtedly the best side in the city, and while United won both league fixtures this term, the balance of power has shifted. They’re still the biggest club, no doubt, but who is the cream of the crop now? Sure as heck isn’t United.