On the 23rd October 2011, English football witnessed one of its greatest ever shocks. Manchester City beat arch-rivals Manchester United 6-1. To this day it is still the heaviest ever Premier League defeat for United and the first time they had conceded six goals at Old Trafford since 1930.
Going into the game, City found themselves two points clear at the top of the table. They came to Old Trafford with spirits high after starting the season undefeated and only dropping points in a 2-2 draw against Fulham. In their three games before the derby, against Everton, Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa, they scored 14 goals and only conceded once.
Manchester United also came into this game unbeaten. Draws against Stoke and Liverpool however pegged them into second place.
The previous season, Manchester United won the league by 9 points with City finishing third. City’s Abu Dhabi takeover had been in effect for over three years by now and the upstairs hierarchy would be desperate for results and trophies to justify their mammoth spending.
Mario Balotelli had found himself in the press for all the wrong reasons in the run up to the game after the controversial Man City striker set his house on fire by setting off fireworks inside it.
This did not stop seem to affect his game however as he scored a brace and City’s first two goals of the afternoon. After his first goal, Balotelli lifted his jersey to reveal a message saying ‘Why Always Me?’ in response to the press coverage he received and questions regarding his lifestyle.
The real turning point in the match was Jonny Evans’ red card just two minutes into the second half. At this point United were only 2-0 down and there was a chance that they could get back into the match. However, once Evans received his marching orders for denying Balotelli an obvious goalscoring opportunity, United capitulated.
Sergio Aguero scored City’s third after some truly abysmal defending from United allowed Micah Richards to calmly square the ball across goal to the waiting Aguero.
United did manage to get one back at this point. Darren Fletcher curled in a fantastic goal to make the scoreline a not insurmountable 3-1. This lapse in concentration from City seemed to spur them on however. In the next 10 minutes City scored three goals. Two courtesy of substitute Edin Dzeko and one from David Silva.
United were not without their chances in this game. They started more brightly than their neighbours and spurned a host of opportunities. Ashley Young, in particular, started strongly. The winger would make blistering runs down the left flank regularly beating Micah Richards and winning a freekick and corner early on.
Wayne Rooney could maybe have been awarded a penalty after he went down under a Vincent Kompany challenge, but referee Mark Clattenburg deemed it to be legal.
There were more good chances from United, most notably from Rooney and Anderson, yet their shots were all straight at Joe Hart.
After the match Sir Alex Ferguson described his side as ‘suicidal’. Watching his post-match interview back there is something which stands out above all else. Ferguson’s resignation in defeat. He does not come out spitting and screaming about the injustice of the loss or the referee like some managers may have done (and like he himself has done in the past). Instead he is accepting of the fact that his team have been well and truly beaten. In many ways this is what the City players and manager should have been most proud of. The grudging acceptance and respect from the Premier League’s greatest ever manager.
This game proved to be the springboard for City’s first Premier League title. They went neck and neck with United across the whole season but managed to gain victories over them both home and away. These results coupled with the famous 3-2 victory against QPR on the last day of the season were all the ingredients necessary to form a remarkable title win.
In 2009, Ferguson dubbed City the ‘noisy neighbours’. This was a slightly condescending remark after his team recorded a dramatic 4-3 derby win. It was intended to remind City of who had dominance in the city of Manchester and not to get ideas above their station. Just two years later and one 6-1 derby win, and City began to embrace their moniker and take pride in it.
In the years that followed the two clubs have gone down different paths. Manchester United won the title the following season in what was to be Ferguson’s last season at the club. From here the club went into a freefall with the unsuccessful tenures of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.
Manchester City, on the other hand, won their second league title in 2013-14 and are now breaking all the records with Pep Guardiola.
Despite their respective difficulties and successes over the following the seasons the rivalry is still just as fierce and each match between these two sides is always hotly anticipated.
This famous victory for Manchester City is a key watershed moment in Premier League history. They emphatically shook up the status quo and more than anything provided one of the most entertaining and gripping football matches we’re ever likely to see.