The Red and Blue of Manchester

Following Jadon Sancho’s high-profile move to Manchester United, this article explores the most famous players to have also played for both Manchester United and Manchester City, analysing their time at both clubs and commenting on the success of each period.

It would be of great difficulty to mention every player to have competed for both clubs and even more so to cover them all in considerable detail. Instead, this article will focus on the most significant and memorable individuals to represent both sides of Manchester.

The First Manchester Men

William Douglas and Robert Milarvie became the first men to play for both Manchester teams, representing both sides of the city towards the end of the 19th century. Douglas was a Scottish goalkeeper who made 36 appearances for City, at this point known as Ardwick A.F.C, between 1890 and 94. In 1984, he transferred to Manchester United, or Newton Heath L.Y.R, and played 57 times for the Reds up until a move to Derby County in 1896. Scottish forward Robert Milarvie also turned out for both Manchester clubs.

After being signed from Derby, Milarvie played 22 times for Newton Heath in just one season, the 1890/91 campaign. He then transferred to Ardwick, where he played 69 times between 1891 and 1896. Notably, Milarvie was at the club when Ardwick transformed into the now universally-known Manchester City, in 1984/85. While neither Douglas or Milarvie played a great number of games for their Manchester teams, or are even well-known by the average fan of either club, they have both earned mythical status as two of the first players to wear both the famous red and blue of Manchester.

Perhaps the most famous player to play for both sides of Manchester was Welsh international, Billy Meredith. As well as earning 48 caps for his country, the ‘Welsh Wizard’ had two spells at City and a successful stint at United. A truly iconic figure for both clubs, Meredith played for City from 1894 to 1906 and then again from 1921 to 1924. In total he made over 300 league appearances for the Blues, scoring 129 goals. With City, the Welshman won the 1898/99 Second Division and the FA Cup in 1904, the club’s first major trophy. Meredith captained the City side in the final and scored the winning goal, in a 1-0 victory versus Bolton.

In the summer of 1906, the phenomenal winger moved to Manchester United, becoming the highest profile figure to represent both clubs. Over 15 years, Meredith made 303 league appearances at Old Trafford and bagged 35 goals. With United, he won two first division titles, in 1907/08 and 1910/11, as well as another FA Cup in 1909. Meredith returned to Manchester City in 1921, aged 47, and played 32 more games before retiring in 1924. He remains the oldest player to play for each of Manchester United, City and Wales. With over 300 appearances and multiple trophies at both clubs, Meredith is arguably the individual who saw the most success at both Manchester sides. He remains an iconic figure to both clubs to this day, playing a vital role in both clubs’ early successes.

Playing in the same period as Meredith was Scottish forward, Sandy Turnbull. Turnbull was a player for Manchester City between 1902 and 1906. He had an impressive goal scoring record, scoring over 50 goals in just over 100 league appearances for the Blues. Turnbull was part of the same team as Meredith that helped secure City’s first FA Cup win in 1904. He then made the switch to United in 1906, where he spent nine years a Red and, along with Meredith, won two titles and an FA Cup. Turnbull played over 200 games for the Red Devils, scoring 90 goals during his time at the club. Sandy Turnbull had a remarkable goals-to-game ratio for both sides and, like Meredith was instrumental in the early achievements of both clubs.

In 1906, Manchester City became embroiled in a scandal over finances and players’ wages. As a result, the club were forced into selling several of their top players. Along with Billy Meredith and Sandy Turnbull, Manchester United also purchased two Englishmen, Herbert Burgess and Jimmy Bannister, from their local rivals.

The Post-War Period

When football returned following its hiatus due to the global turmoil of two world wars, several more players graced the fields of both Old Trafford and Maine Road. One such figure was centre-forward Brian Kidd. Kidd enjoyed a successful career with Man United, playing 203 times for the Red Devils and scoring 52 league goals. Memorably, Kidd scored in United’s 1968 European Cup final win over Benfica. After a subsequent spell with Arsenal, Kidd moved to City in the summer of 1976. During three seasons at Maine Road, Kidd managed 44 goals from 98 league appearances, before leaving for Everton in 1979. Following his playing career, Brian Kidd has gone on to enjoy great success as a coach. After brief spells in charge of Barrow and Preston North End, Kidd was appointed as a youth team coach for Manchester United by Sir Alex Ferguson in 1988.

Kidd was influential in helping mould and encourage a group of young talented players at United, such as Ryan Giggs, who became vital to the Red Devils’ success in the 90s. Kidd was promoted to assistant manager and occupied the role from 1991 to 1998. He famously ran on to the pitch and dropped to his knees to celebrate Steve Bruce’s second goal in a win over Sheffield United, which was pivotal in helping United to secure the 1992/93 title. During Kidd’s time as a coach at United, the team won four Premier League titles, three FA Cups and one League Cup. Kidd returned to City in 2009 as a technical development manager, before being appointed as assistant manager to Roberto Mancini in December 2009.

Kidd held this position under successive managers Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola, before leaving the role at the end of the 2020/21 season. While part of the coaching set-up at City, Kidd saw the team achieve five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and six League Cups. As a player, Kidd played more times for Manchester United, with the highlight undoubtedly the 1968 European Cup victory. He went on to experience immense coaching success at both clubs, holding the role of assistant manager to two of the greatest modern managers, in Ferguson and Guardiola, and amounting an impressive trophy haul.

Scottish footballing icon Denis Law also represented both Manchester teams. Law joined City as a club record signing in 1960 from Huddersfield Town. After just one season at Maine Road, Law moved to Italian side Torino, and then moved again the next year to Old Trafford, in 1962. Law set the record for a fee involving a British player three times, moving from Huddersfield to Manchester City for £55,000, City to Torino for £110,000, and then moving from Torino to United for £115,000. ‘The King’ as he became affectionately known by the United fans, spent 11 hugely successful  years at Old Trafford, scoring over 237 goals from 404 appearances.

Law became part of United’s legendary ‘Holy Trinity’, along with Bobby Charlton and George Best. He remains Manchester United’s third-highest all-time goal scorer, behind only Wayne Rooney and Bobby Charlton. Denis Law is also the only man to have two statues dedicated to him at Old Trafford, one as an individual, and one dedicated to the United Trinity. After Tommy Docherty’s appointment as the new manager, and the departure of Charlton and Best, Law returned to Manchester City on a free transfer in July 1973. Before retiring, Law spent the final season of his career at City, famously scoring a back-heeled goal in the derby that saw Manchester United relegated from the top division in 1974.

This was his final touch in league football as Law asked to be substituted immediately after the goal. In both spells at City combined, Law made over 75 appearances, scoring 37 times. Ultimately, Law spent just two seasons at City, whereas he remains an all-time United legend and a favourite of many United fans to this day.

In addition to Kidd and Law, Peter Barnes and John Gidman played for both Manchester United and City in the post-war period, with both players transferred directly from United to City.

The Premier League Era

One surprising individual who played for both Manchester giants during the Premier League era is Danish goalkeeper, Peter Schmeichel. The Great Dane joined from Danish side Brøndby in August 1991. He went on to become one of United’s greatest ever keepers, making 367 appearances for the Red DevilsDuring his eight years at United, Schmeichel won five league titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and the Champions League. He ended his United career by captaining the team to victory in the 1999 Champions League final against Bayern Munich, sealing United’s famous treble. After moves to Sporting CP and Aston Villa, Schmeichel joined City for the 2002/03 season. That season, Gary Neville famously ignored Schmeichel’s handshake in the tunnel before a derby fixture. Schmeichel spent the peak of his career at United, amassing numerous trophies and accolades, his time at City, in comparison, was a brief stint before the keeper’s retirement from football.

Like Schmeichel, Andy Cole also spent his peak years at Manchester United before a later spell at City towards the end of his career. Ferguson signed Cole in January 1995, from Newcastle United, for a then British record of £6.25 million. Cole had a hugely successful and prolific spell at United until 2001 and formed a lethal partnership with Dwight Yorke. Cole won five Premier League titles, two FA Cups and the Champions League with United and finished his time at the club with 121 goals in 275 appearances. After spells at Blackburn and Fulham, Andy Cole signed for Manchester City in 2005. He played just one season for City and finished as the club’s top scorer, scoring ten goals in 23 appearances. Cole remains the third-highest all-time top scorer in the Premier League with 187 goals, behind Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney. Andy Cole is rightly remembered as one of the great Premier League strikers. The majority of his appearances, goals and trophies came for United, while his spell at City came towards the decline of his career.

Both Schmeichel and Cole signed for Manchester City during the final years of their careers when they were past the peak of their powers. This was also a period where City were possibly not considered a genuine threat to United. Carlos Tevez is perhaps unique in the fact that he moved directly from United to City during the prime of his career, at a time where City were directly challenging their rivals for silverware. The Argentine striker signed for United from West Ham in 2007 and became part of an impressive attacking trio next to Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. In just two seasons at Old Trafford, Tevez won two Premier League titles, the Champions League and the Club World Cup Championship.

He finished his United career with 34 goals in 99 appearances. Tevez was the subject of a controversial and high-profile move to the Etihad in 2009, whereby he joined a growing Manchester City team. He continued to score and perform at City and, at the end of his first season, won the club’s Etihad Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards. Tevez scored 50 goals in his first 73 games, becoming the second-fastest player to reach this milestone in the club’s history. At City, Tevez won the FA Cup in 2011 as well as the Premier League in the 2011/12 season, the club’s first Premier League title. Tevez left City for Juventus in 2013, having scored 73 goals in 148 appearances for the club. The Argentine striker can boast an impressive goal-scoring record as well as the accolade of having won a Premier League title for both Manchester clubs, despite this, the controversial and often rebellious figure isn’t remembered particularly fondly by either set of fans.

The Premier League era has also seen the likes of Peter Beardsley, Mark Robins, Terry Cooke, Andrei Kanchelskis, Owen Hargreaves and Frédéric Veseli, play for both the red and blue of Manchester, arguably to a less impactful and significant level. Additionally, Abbie McManus and Jane Ross have played for both of the Manchester City and Manchester United women’s teams. In terms of managers, Ernest Mangnallholds the impressive feat of being the only man to have managed both City and United. The great Manchester United manager Sir Matt Busby, who famously commanded the ‘Busby Babes’ and guided the Reds to European Cup glory in 1968, also had an impressive playing career. This included an eight-year spell with Manchester City between 1928 and 1936, where he played over 200 times and even won the FA Cup in 1934. Both Steve Coppell and Mark Hughes had opposite career trajectories to Sir Matt Busby, having spent time at United as players and then going on to manage City later in their careers.

As Manchester United and Manchester City continue to directly compete for trophies and titles, the number of players to represent both clubs has declined, often limited to players near to retirement, or academy players who are surplus to requirements. Following his transfer from Borussia Dortmund, former City academy star Jadon Sancho has returned to Manchester, but he will now be wearing red. Fans will be eager to see how he gets on this season, as the latest player to wear both the famous red and blue of Manchester. One former City academy player that could prove a point in the future is none other than Charlie McNeill who has been firing in the goals for both City and United’s academies.

Written by George Lavin

Sir Alex Ferguson’s Greatest Manchester United Striker

Over his 27-year reign, Sir Alex Ferguson had some magnificent strikers who lit up Old Trafford. They varied as the decades went by and the game adapted, but each played a pivotal role in making Manchester United what it is today. Their skills range from the lethal poacher ready to score at any moment and the more technically gifted player willing to drop deep and create chances for his teammates. 

Firstly, so what makes a good United striker? For me it has to be bravery, confidence and consistency. This striker would be the team’s main source of goals, the player the team looks upon for a moment of magic or for them to take that one chance in the game and win it for them. Therefore, bravery, confidence and consistency are pivotal as if this striker isn’t brave, he won’t have the attitude to dive for every header and go in for every 50/50, but a player with bravery will score you those scrappy goals but these are the ones that make all the difference.

Confidence and consistency are simple terms but are necessary to make a great striker as without confidence the player won’t play at his best and could become a liability and without consistency the team can never fully rely on their striker which will massively hinder their team as the players around him need to know they can trust their striker. Hence why at the moment, Anthony Martial is sparking debate as to whether he’s good enough to play as United’s striker, as over his six years at the club he’s shown high potential and provided some good seasons especially the 2019/20 season where he scored 17 goals in the league and providing seven assists in 32 games, but he’s not managed to consistently equal these performances and his form has a tendency to slump often.

Ferguson had many strikers in his reign and this article will specifically look at five. These include, Andy Cole, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie and Dwight Yorke. Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo would have made the top five, but I wouldn’t consider them as an out and out strikers under Ferguson.

Firstly, Andy Cole. He was an £8.64 million signing in January of 1995 which at the time was a British transfer fee record so expectations were high. He played 274 games for the Red Devils slotting in 121 goals and providing 44 assists as well. He formed a great partnership with another player on this list; Dwight Yorke. Yorke was a Trinidadian striker who joined United in July 1998 for a huge fee at the time of £17.33 million, thus like Cole expectations were also extremely high. He manged 65 goals and 29 assists in 152 games before leaving United in 2002. The pair won the historic treble and will undoubtedly go down as United legends but who was better? Both were brilliant players and had excellent chemistry but for me Andy Cole was the better player due to his lethal finishing but if it wasn’t for the link up with Yorke, he wouldn’t have been so successful. 

Ruud van Nistelrooy also came into United for a big fee in 2001 when he signed for £25.65 million from PSV Eindhoven. Van Nistelrooy epitomised the term poacher, as he was always in the right position at the right time with deadly finishing to score an abundance of goals. At his time at United he scored 150 goals with 20 assists in 219 games. In his best league season, he managed 25 goals in 34 games with three assists. In his five seasons in the Premier League, he managed to hit over 20 goals in 4 of them. He was a lethal finisher, with one of the highest goals per minute ratios in the Premier League of all time. However, one drawback to his ability was his overall game. As he was a poacher, he wasn’t that creative and his overall game wasn’t as strong as others on the list which means he can’t be ranked as United’s greatest striker under Ferguson.

The next striker is Wayne Rooney, he was a debatable one as arguably he can be seen as more of an allrounder and not a specific striker but he did play as a striker for Ferguson in certain seasons and parts of seasons so therefore I’d include him as a striker in Ferguson’s reign. Rooney signed for United in 2004 for £33.30 million and went onto play 559 games, scoring 223 goals and providing 146 assists. Then as a centre forward he managed 74 goals and 40 assists in 170 games. Statistically, he has an unbelievable record, scoring hundreds of goals and providing hundreds of assists even as a striker; and this defines Wayne Rooney as a player because he wasn’t one dimensional or limited in his game, he had everything, pace, power, finishing, passing, strength.

He could be the man to score the goals United needed but also provided that creative linkup bringing others into the game at the same time. As a striker he was quite unique, in this decade someone similar to Rooney would be Harry Kane who is blessed with brilliant vision and passing as well as great finishing. Furthermore, Rooney wasn’t one to shy away in the big games scoring one of the most iconic goals in Premier League history with a bicycle kick against local rivals Manchester City also managing many goals against the ‘Big Six’ scoring six goals against Liverpool, nine against Chelsea, ten against City and fifteen goals against Arsenal overall in his United and Everton Premier League career.

Rooney had what poachers like Van Nistelrooy didn’t and despite Yorke and Coles ability to partially do what Rooney could do, neither could do it to the level that Rooney could. Rooney’s overall game is what would place him above his fellow strikers at United as he wasn’t ever limited to just one dimension in a game, he could help his team in many ways which is pivotal to leading the team to success. Some of Rooney’s game came after Ferguson’s departure but a huge majority of his best performances and form came from under the management of Sir Alex Ferguson.

Finally, Robin Van Persie although not at the club for long is regarded by many as a United legend for his title winning contributions in the 2012/13 season in which he signed from big rivals Arsenal for £27.63 million. Van Persie was a proven striker who Wenger proclaimed to Ferguson after the signing that he’s a better player than you think.” He was brought in to be the final piece in the puzzle for Ferguson’s men in which unbeknownst to him would be Fergusons last season at the club. In his first and only season under Ferguson, Van Persie scored 30 goals with 26 of those coming in the Premier League and three in the Champions League and one in the FA Cup.

He didn’t manage to win the Champions League in this season which Ferguson would have aimed to achieve, but this is more due to a controversial decision made by the referee Cuneyt Cakir in the Champions League Round of 16 against Real Madrid to send Nani off after United looked the stronger team. However, Van Persie did manage to secure United their famous 20th title with such a strong performance from him throughout the season meaning many have claimed he single handily won United the title in this season. His 15 assists show his ability to link well with Rooney, seen especially against Aston Villa with that iconic volley after a beautiful pass from Rooney. Overall, Van Persie with more years under Ferguson could have been the best but having only played one full season restricted him.

In conclusion, I feel all five off these strikers are brilliant United greats but the best of them all was Wayne Rooney. He was a loyal servant to the club, but in particular was a world class footballer with a unique ability to pick any pass and play it, helping better the fluidity and link up within the United forwards. He scored crucial goals in pivotal times for United winning 16 trophies and was a role model to others as he never gave in and always performed for the badge. Therefore, I feel Rooney despite not being the most clinical or most conventional CF was United’s best striker in Ferguson’s reign due to his completeness as a player having everything to his game which the others couldn’t boast to their names. 

Written by Ethan Bents

Manchester United Idols: Andy Cole – a true bargain of the Premier League era; 275 appearances, 121 goals, 44 assists

On Tuesday 10 January 1995, Manchester United signed Andy Cole from Newcastle United in a deal worth £7 million which included Keith Gillespie, worth £1 million heading in the other direction. For £6 million cash, Cole was going to be an absolute belter for United. He made his debut 12 days after signing for the club in a 1-0 victory at Old Trafford over Blackburn Rovers – the eventual winners of the Premier League that season by one point – with Eric Cantona scoring an 80th minute winner. Cole’s first goal for United came in a 1-0 victory over Aston Vila at Old Trafford on the 4 February 1996, scoring the only goal of the match in the 17th minute.

In his first season for United, despite coming half way through the season, Cole made 18 appearances, not playing in any other competition that season as he was cup-tied in the FA Cup, United were already out of the League Cup and the UEFA Champions League – finishing third in their group. In those few appearances, Cole managed to score 12 goals, scoring single goals against Aston Villa, Manchester City, and Southampton, braces against Leicester City and Coventry City, also scoring five against Ipswich Town in a 9-0 hammering of the club that season which also saw a brace from Mark Hughes and goals from Roy Keane and Paul Ince too.

Cole played for United in eight different seasons, coming half way through the first and leaving halfway through the last, completing six seasons at the club. In his second season (1995/96), United were tasked to win the Premier League once again after Blackburn won the title the previous season, stopping United from winning the league three seasons in a row. United achieved that with Cole making 43 appearances and scoring 13 goals, 11 of those were in the Premier League alone which saw United finish four points clear of Newcastle United also finishing the season with the FA Cup after beating Liverpool 1-0 with Cantona scoring the only goal of the match.

In the summer of 1996, Cole saw both Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrive at the Old Trafford club. During the 1996/97 season, Cole made just 28 appearances, scoring seven goals in all competitions, which was not his best season at the club by a long shot but it was a season that United retained the Premier League title, also winning the FA Charity Shield at the start of the season, but falling short in the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Champions League once more. United were seeking to sign Alan Shearer from Blackburn that summer, ending up spending 10% of his fee on Solskjaer, which turned out quite well for United – that is another story.

The 1997/98 season was Cole’s best season at the club where he made a total of 45 appearances, scoring 25 goals – the most he had ever scored in one season for the club. It was the first of three good seasons for the player and the club where he would score a total of 71 goals in 140 appearances for the club. United ended the season second in the Premier League, losing to Arsenal by a single point, similar to that season against Blackburn. United won the FA Community Shield, got to the fifth round of the FA Cup, the third round of the League Cup also reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League – but little did anyone know what was coming.

The 1998/99 season is the pinnacle season for United as they won the treble, a feat that has never been achieved by another English club, at least not a proper treble. Cole made 50 appearances for his club that season, scoring 24 goals in all competitions. Cole scored some important goals that season, helping United qualify for the Champions League, scoring against LKS Lodz in the qualification round, scoring twice against Brondby in the group stages and once against Barcelona with new strike partner, Dwight Yorke – who arrived that summer for £12.6 million from Aston Villa, bagging a brace. Cole also scored against Juventus in the semi-final second leg.

United won the Premier League on the final day of the 1998/99 season, beating Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 with Les Ferdinand opening the scoring (24′), David Beckham equalising (42′) and Cole scoring a 47th winner for United, seeing his side lift the title at Old Trafford. United then won the FA Cup six days later beating Newcastle United 2-0 at Wembley with Teddy Sheringham and Paul Scholes scoring the goals. Four days later would be the biggest match of the season and some of these player’s careers just four days later. United versus Bayern Munich in the Champions League final at the Nou Camp in Barcelona.

Cole started that match in Barcelona but a sixth minute after Mario Basler scoring a free-kick, beating Peter Schmeichel. Bayern were unlucky not to score more goals in the match, hitting the woodwork more than once throughout the match. Sheringham replaced Jesper Blomqvist in the 67th minute to support United’s attack with Cole being replaced by Solskjaer in the 81st minute, which would change the match for United. In the first minute of added time, United won a corner, taken by Beckham with Sheringham scoring. Two minutes later, another free-kick – Beckham into Sheringham and Solskjaer has won it.

United reached the promised land that season with one of the best teams that Sir Alex Ferguson had ever put together. Cole made another 45 appearances in the 1999/2000 season, scoring 22 goals for United. United won the Premier League again, the third round in the League Cup, did not participate in the FA Cup because of FIFA Club World Cup, which they finished in the group stages of, also winning the Intercontinental Cup. The 2000/01 season was Cole’s last full season at the club, making 31 appearances and scoring 13 goals for the club. United ended with the Premier League again, winning it three times in a row for the first time.

During the 2001/02 season, Cole made 15 appearances for United, scoring five goals. His last goal came in a 3-1 victory over Sunderland at the Stadium of Light. his last appearance for United came in a 1-0 defeat to West Ham United on the 8 December 2001 in which Jermain Defoe scored the only goal of the game. United signed Ruud van Nistelrooy in the summer of 2001, delayed from the year before because of fitness concerns which turned into a ruptured ACL. His arrival limited Cole’s performances for United that season so he was sold to Blackburn Rovers for £8 million, with United making a profit based on the fee paid for him.

Cole won the League Cup with Blackburn only a few months after being sold to the club, which was his twelfth and final trophy of his career. He made 100 appearances, scoring 37 goals for Blackburn then leaving for Fulham (39 appearances, 13 goals), Manchester City (23 appearances, 10 goals), Portsmouth (22 appearances, four goals), Birmingham City on loan (five appearances, one goals), Sunderland (eight appearances, no goals), Burnley on loan (13 appearances, six goals) and finally ending his career at Nottingham Forest (11 appearances, no goals). Cole made a total of 646 appearances during his career, scoring 289 goals.

For United, Cole made 275 appearances, scoring 121 goals and 44 assists and helped the club win five Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one FA Charity Shield and one UEFA Champions League. Since retiring, Cole has coached with Huddersfield Town, achieved his coaching badges working at United’s Carrington training ground and worked with Sol Campbell at Southend United. He has suffered ill-health with kidney failure in 2014 and had a transplant in 2017. He is also an ambassador for United, the club that he spent much of his glittering career at. He turned 49 on the Thursday 15 October 2020 and it was fitting to remember this Manchester United icon.

Written by John Walker

copyright: JW