The making of a modern rivalry: How the 2011-12 season ensured City v United is one of the modern era's greatest

The blue side of Manchester have had to endure their rivals' unmatched success over recent years but are now leading the way thanks to the arrival of Sheikh Mansour
By David Lynch

The rivalry between Manchester City and Manchester United has, in the past, been slightly one-sided to say the least.

Both sides cemented their superiority locally following humble beginnings as St Mark’s (West Gorton) and Newton Heath respectively, however, following the second World War, and with the Football League still in its infancy, the clubs began to take rather different paths.

Until this year, City had just two league titles to their name. In fact, the club held the unwanted record of the most prolific winners of English football’s second tier, a detail which is testament to their status as the archetypal yo-yo club.

They had to endure such misfortune whilst looking enviously across Manchester – or, as their fans revel in reminding their rivals, across to Salford – witnessing Manchester United win a record number of English league titles, three European Cups and an array of other silverware. Frankly, it cannot have been easy to wear blue over the years.

Working alongside United fans might well have been the definition of torturous water cooler chat; there is little to grab onto by way of riposte when your opposition can simply reference their unrivalled success.

But then, as if by way of reward for years of such hardship, City fans stumbled upon the rarest of levellers in the form of a pile of cash from the outrageously rich Sheikh Mansour in 2008.

The club’s first league win at Old Trafford since 1975 had come that year, but the makeshift nature of the side under Thaksin Shinawatra’s ownership was underlined by the identity of the winning goalscorer - none other than Benjani.

Therefore it was understandable that such a momentous result did not equate to signalling a power shift between the clubs. City would have to wait till 2011 for that era-defining turning point; an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

325/1 Manchester City are 325/1 with Paddy Power to beat Man Utd 6-1 on Sunday
United went into that game having held their rivals to a draw at the Etihad Stadium before winning 2-1 at Old Trafford courtesy of Wayne Rooney’s memorable overhead kick. That, along with their experience of having won every major honour in recent history, made them clear favourites for progression to their 19th FA Cup final.

Of course, Yaya Toure – a player who had left behind the famous Camp Nou to join City’s journey into unchartered waters – got the winning goal this time, providing a more fitting summary of where the rivalry was heading. And it would take just one further year for confirmation of that swing.

City famously won the title with the very last kick of the season, denying their red brethren in what must have been the most satisfying title victory in history – for the blue side of Manchester at least. The foundations for the win were laid by a 6-1 hammering of Sir Alex Ferguson’s men at Old Trafford and a 1-0 victory during the run in, but it was the former result which would prove most crucial.

Had the Etihad Stadium side posted just a 2-1 win in that game, then the English league title would have been decided by a play off for the first time in history; both sides would have been equal on points, goal difference, goals scored and goals conceded. These are the margins which decided whether you were happy or distraught in Manchester in May.

And, for now, City will simply be pleased to be on the winning side of that narrow divide. Though they will need victory on Sunday to ensure they can maintain that new, unfamiliar status quo this season.

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