No love lost on Valentine's Day: United 4 Man City 2
Somewhat appropriately, Manchester United have played 14 matches on 14 February and the last of these Valentine's Day fixtures was a firecracker, 15 years ago. On that occasion, the red and blue sides of our city went head-to-head... quite literally!
“It’s quite right that there is criticism,”acknowledged Sir Alex Ferguson in his pre-match press conference.
“We’ve lost four goals in the last two games from set-pieces. There has been a slackness in our defending, but I don’t think you can put that down to the absence of Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville. We should be defending better – we want to get to the root of that.”
Ten-man United win cup derbyVideo
“the greatest comeback in FA Cup history”to embolden them.
In the previous round, they had trailed 3-0 away to Tottenham Hotspur, only to mount a remarkable second-half comeback. Despite being reduced to 10 men on the stroke of half-time, when Joey Barton received a second yellow card, the Blues stormed back, and found a remarkable winner from a former United youth player, the Blackley-born striker Jon Macken, with just seconds remaining.
“must have been a big release for them”before cautioning that his side
“must be aware that they will again be looking to the FA Cup to give themselves another lift.“
“the unholy trinity”in three Merseysiders - Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Joey Barton.
“He’s a little gem for us,”cooed Wilf McGuinness in his column on ManUtd.com.
“He has a knack of starting a move and then finishing it off. Typical Scholes play.”
“Neville thumped the ground furiously when a penalty wasn't given,”recorded United Review, and when an equally enraged McManaman approached the defender, the pair butted heads.
Seconds later, the former Liverpool man recoiled animatedly, clutching his forehead. Jeff Winter, the referee, went to his pocket and brandished a red card to Neville, giving City hopes of another comeback and leaving Sir Alex with a rejigging job to do.
“Gary Neville is a real favourite of mine, a local lad who has given great service to Manchester United. But Gary will look at that incident and think, ‘Wasn’t I an idiot’, and I’m afraid he was.”
“McManaman has been around a long time. I don't know what his role was in this match, but he certainly ended up intimidating Gary.“ The Daily Star Sunday evocatively labelled United’s no.2 ‘Nutter Neville’.
“anticipating a second-half sensation to match the previous round”(United Review) while Reds legend Lou Macari admitted in his post-match column on ManUtd.com:
“I thought we could be in a bit of trouble.”
“That's what Tim's been doing all season,”said Sir Alex later.
“He's made a difference.”
“One paper I read after the game said Roy only covers three quarters of the field after his injury, instead of the whole pitch,”laughed Wilf McGuinness.
“Three quarters though, the way he does it, is terrific. Keano was the equivalent to two men in the second half. It was like having the full eleven on the field anyway. Roy was immense.”
“In the end it was, in my opinion, one of the most comfortable wins this season,”adjudged a delighted Macari.
“You expected City to make lots of chances, you expect chance after chance on a regular basis because you're down to 10 men and chasing shadows. Roy Keane in particular got about the pitch and rallied the troops and, in the end, it was quite a remarkable scoreline.”
“I enjoyed every minute of it,”buzzed two-goal hero van Nistelrooy.
“It was a great day for all the United fans and everybody at the club. Yellow cards, red cards, goals, saves, a good atmosphere. That is what football is all about,”he added.
“They scored from half-chances and we missed gilt-edged chances,”bemoaned Keegan, but the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor praised United’s
“merciless streak”, as evinced by Scholes, van Nistelrooy and Ronaldo.
“Ruud rules the roost”chorused the Daily Mail.
“His red mist was quite out of character,”claimed the boss,
“and he knows full well himself that it was bad timing, with automatic suspension for his sending-off adding to our defensive worries.
“But at the end of the day, we had scored four goals, three of them when we were down to 10 men, and that sounds pretty good to me.
“I was asked afterwards if we were taking the FA Cup seriously, but we have never viewed this competition with anything but the highest regard and respect.”
That was all to come. But on Saturday 14 February, 2004, the red multitude left Old Trafford dazed and delighted, after the stormiest Valentine’s Day in the city's football history.