Chris Smalling and Paul Pogba

Revealed: United's dream derby XI

Saturday 06 March 2021 19:00

Derby day: it’s a time for heroes and a real test of nerves.

Manchester City v Manchester United has been one of English football’s fiercest rivalries for over 100 years, but the intensity of this fixture has increased in the last decade, during which the Blues have reached new heights.

The Reds were dominant in the 1990s and won all of the meetings at Maine Road from November 1993 to November 2000. Admittedly, there were only four, as our local rivals spent tumultuous seasons bouncing around lower tiers.

City's move to the old Commonwealth Stadium – now known as the Etihad, of course – has brought more derby victories than defeats for United, including some key triumphs in title races.

Across both grounds, the Blues have hosted 23 Manchester derbies in the Premier League so far, and we've picked an XI of the Reds' best performers in those games…


There have been some great performances by United goalkeepers at City over the years, but the big Dutchman gets in our side thanks to his penalty save from Darius Vassell in May 2007. Cristiano Ronaldo had put the Reds a goal up early on in a key game in the title race, and we were hanging on when the referee pointed to the spot with 11 minutes to play. Fortunately, Edwin was on hand - as he would be 12 months later in Moscow - to deflect the shot away and, after Chelsea drew with Arsenal the following day, United were champions.


Aaron has only played one league game at the Etihad, but what a performance it was! The Spider won our Man-of-the-Match award after the 2-1 success in December 2019, aiding the side’s counterattacking onslaught in the first half before doing everything in his power to keep Raheem Sterling and co quiet during a nerve-wracking second period.


Unlike the other centre-back in our XI, Rio never grabbed a goal at the home of our rivals. However, he did help the Reds to four clean sheets down the years – and who could forget his legendary celebration after Robin van Persie’s late, late winner in 2012?


Smalling was once sent off at the Etihad, during a 1-0 defeat in the 2014/15 campaign, but he gets in this side after scoring the winning goal, as United completed the unlikeliest of turnarounds to delay City's title celebrations in 2018.


Pat’s club debut at Eastlands could have gone better – he was substituted at half-time in a 3-1 loss – but he soon recovered to become a stalwart of this fixture. The Frenchman captained United in the van Persie game, in 2012, but his finest moment came two years earlier, with a late, late assist for Paul Scholes (see below!)

Highlights: Man City 1 United 2 Video

Highlights: Man City 1 United 2

We won on our last league visit to the Etihad Stadium, in December 2019...


Becks made his derby bow in 1996, but with City struggling in the lower divisions, he had to wait another four years before reacquainting himself with our crosstown rivals. Striking home a free-kick barely 90 seconds into the first meeting of the 2000/01 season wasn’t a bad way to make up for lost time.


United were staring the ultimate humiliation in the face at half-time of the April 2018 derby. City, relentless under Pep Guardiola, had lost just once all season and were 2-0 up and coasting towards a first title in four years. They’d confirm it against us, of all teams, within 45 minutes, unless something was done. Up stepped Paul, scoring twice in the space of three minutes, to spoil the party…


April 2010. City v United is meandering towards a goalless draw which suits neither side – the Reds will lose further ground on Chelsea at the top, while the Blues continue to stutter in their bid for top four. Enter Scholes, who ghosts into the box and nods home Evra’s cross in the fourth minute of added time to spark bedlam in the visiting end.


The King dominated the derby in the days when it was played at Maine Road. After signing from Leeds in 1992, he scored past City four times in four league games, including a pivotal brace in November 1993’s glorious comeback success.


We couldn’t not include the record Manchester derby goalscorer, could we? The England striker netted 11 times against City, with five coming in the league iterations of this fixture. The highlight? Probably the double which set us on our way to the incredible 3-2 win at the Etihad in December 2012.


“I’d probably say my first Manchester derby,” Rashford replies when asked what's his favourite United goal so far. That amazing solo effort, as the teenager shimmied beyond the flailing Martin Demichelis before firing past Joe Hart, started a love affair with this fixture – Marcus has already tasted victory four times on this ground, with three coming in the league. Let’s make it another on Sunday!