There’s so many of these to choose from it could have actually been quite difficult, but for me, it was a very simple selection. The Manchester Derby of 1989 was memorable for a few things, but with me, it was the very first Derby match I went to. And what a game to remember.
23rd September 1989. The blues had just been promoted from Division two and had the grand total of one win all season. City had spent just around £1.5m in the transfer market, with £1m of that going on striker Clive Allen, whose injury kept him out of the derby anyway. The rest went on signing Ian Bishop from Bournemouth, and that was the extent of City’s summer signings.
By comparison, United’s board had grown tired of not winning anything and gave Alex Ferguson a cash injection of £8m, which was quite a sum back in 1989. With that, the Scot bought Danny Wallace from Southampton, Neil Webb from Nottingham Forest, Paul Ince from West Ham and Mike Phelan from Norwich, before breaking the British transfer record for a defender by signing Gary Pallister for £2.3m No one gave the blues a chance against their high-spending neighbours, especially given City’s injury woes.
In front of a packed Maine Road, the match kicked off, but before long it was kicking off in the stands. A large number of United fans had somehow got hold of tickets for the North Stand, and some fighting between the two sets of supporters broke out. The referee promptly removed the two teams from the pitch while the trouble makers were herded out of the stand and into the Platt Lane end with the rest of the away support.
Soon after, the match got under way again and it wasn’t long before the blues took the lead. Andy Hinchcliffe’s crossfield ball was inch perfect to David White. His cross into the box evaded the outstretched leg of Pallister and fell to David Oldfield, who rifled the ball into the roof of the net to send Maine Road into a frenzy.
Two minutes later, City were 2-0 up. A ball into the box was cut out by the United defence, but the defender dithered too long on the ball and Morley stole the ball away. His shot was saved brilliantly by Jim Leighton, but the rebound fell to Paul Lake, who danced his way past the United defence and his cross/shot was parried by Leighton and fell to Morley, who poked home to send the home fans wild with delight. 13 minutes played, 2-0 to the blues.
The pessimists in the ground believed it wouldn’t stay that way, and they were right. On 35 minutes, City defender Steve Redmond cut out a United attack and played a pass to David White, who played it back to Redmond, now out on the right wing. His ball down the right found Oldfield, whose cross was met by the diving head of an unmarked Ian Bishop, who made it 3-0.
The fans were in dreamland as half time arrived, and the faithful wanted more in the second half. And would they get it, but not before United tried a comeback.
On 50 minutes, Mark Hughes pulled a goal back in spectacular style. Russell Beardsmore’s trickery on the right got the better of Hinchcliffe and Hughes scored a ‘bicycle kick’ in off the bar to drag united back into the match. But United fans hopes of a comeback would soon be dashed.
On 58 minutes, Lake ran clear of the United defence, but his shot was again stopped by Leighton. Fortunately, the rebound fell back to Lake, who had the presence of mind to pass to the waiting Oldfield. Leighton was out of goal, the last defender slipped at the wrong moment and Oldfield tapped the ball into an empty net for 4-1. Ask any City fan before the match and they would have taken that scoreline.
But the blues weren’t finished.
Four minutes later, the rout was complete. Ian Bishop’s glorious pass found White out on the right. His first time cross was met with the head of Hinchcliffe, the left back who appeared from nowhere, who thundered the ball home and forced Leighton to pick the ball out of the net for a fifth time.
As the match drew to a close, the Platt Lane stand emptied of reds, leaving 40,000 plus City fans chanting long after the game finished.