The Manchester derby League Cup semi-final: 10 years on


Manchester United will be attempting to try and turn around a first leg deficit in a League Cup semi-final second leg on Wednesday night, just as they were in 2010 when the Reds knocked the ‘noisy neighbours’ Manchester City out on the way to winning the competition. 

The infamous two-legged tie was one of the first indications that City were going to spend the next ten years collecting most of the trophies in English football, even if Sir Alex Ferguson and United fans didn’t want to believe it at the time.

The previous summer City splashed the cash on Emmanuel Adebayor, Joleon Lescott, Gareth Barry and Roque Santa Cruz. Although most of these signings majorly flopped, their most astute acquisition was that of Carlos Tevez, with City jumping on the chance to sign him when United decided against making his loan permanent.

“Not in my lifetime.”Sir Alex Ferguson on whether Manchester United would ever go into a derby match as underdogs – 19 September 2009

One of Tevez’s first games in the light blue of City was in the Manchester Derby in September of 2009. Booed and mocked for ‘not winning trophies anymore’ throughout the game, Tevez could only look on as his replacement in the team Michael Owen scored a dramatic last-minute winner in a 4-3 victory.

However, in January 2010, Tevez got ‘his revenge’, scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory at the Etihad to give City a first leg advantage in the then named Carling Cup. The bitterness from Tevez’s departure the previous summer spilled over in the match. After the Argentine’s first goal, his provocative celebration resulted in him going over to substitute Gary Neville who was warming up and famously cupping his ears. Neville subdued response was to raise his middle finger. 

The first leg was also Roberto Mancini’s first Manchester derby and City fans took to him the moment he first donned his blue and white scarf on the touchline. Alex Ferguson wasn’t quite as charmed by Mancini however, as he instantly recognised him as a man who could take City to another level, in similar ways to how he saw Arsene Wenger at Arsenal when he first arrived.

By the time the second leg came around two weeks later, City fans were dreaming of a first trip to the new Wembley and the chance to tear down the ‘34 years’ banner reminding them of how long it had been since their club had won a major trophy. United claimed bragging rights once more as a last-minute Wayne Rooney header saw them turn the tie around, stemming the blue tide for at least the short-term.

The second leg was just as ugly as the first, with a strong tackle by Darren Fletcher on Micah Richards starting a brawl between the two players. Many would say that with lack of Mancunian born players on each team that this sort of passion and commitment has been lost, but the recent derby in December had plenty of strong tackles and unprofessional fouls, for example Andreas Pereira’s naughty clip on Raheem Sterling.

Unfortunately, what we also saw in the second leg in 2010 was the unsavoury side of the Manchester Derby when passions run too high. Craig Bellamy was hit by a bottle whilst taking a corner in front of the United fansand sadly this is something still prominent as seen in the game in December when Fred was racially abused by a City fan and also in 2013 when Rio Ferdinand’s head was cut by a coin thrown from the City end.

Those two legs in January of 2010 set the tone for years of rivalry, with the year after City finally ending their trophy drought, winning the FA Cup in 2011 after beating United in the Semi-Final. Another year after they pipped United to the Premier League title in 2012 in the last second thanks to Sergio Aguero’s dramatic winner. Mancini had taken City to the next level just as Ferguson feared with the likes of Aguero, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Touré and David Silva all becoming world class players.

Both Mancini and Ferguson left their posts in May 2013 after Sir Alex had wrestled the title back off of City to end on a high and put United back on top. Despite his efforts, in the years since City have made smart, calculated decisions to leave them now light years ahead. Manuel Pellegrini layed the foundations for Pep Guardiola to win back-to-back titles and a domestic treble.

All the while United are no closer to similar success through both dreadful recruitment and planning, with several managers failing to find the answer. In 2010, after the second leg of that semi-final tie, United fans would laugh if told that City would spend the next decade finishing above the Reds in the league and winning trophies nearly every season. In 2020, it’s now more than likely a city fan would laugh if you said the same to them about United.

Written by Alex Metcalfe

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