Keane on City: The Maine Road Comeback

From the Archives

Date: Sunday, 7th November 1993

Manchester City: 2 ( Quinn 2 )

Manchester United: 3 ( Cantona 2, Keane )

Attendance: 35,155

Local derbies are normally fierce and feisty affairs. Pride of the city is at stake, with bragging rights at work on Monday morning on offer. Bone crunching tackles, passion and commitment in abundance, are normally on the menu. This derby was one which certainly fit that bill.

When United visited City’s old home, Maine Road, they were on a run of only one defeat in 20 league games. 55 points from 60 available, had been snatched up by Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. United were on a crest of a wave. The current champions of England rocked up ready to give the boss his first win in a Manchester derby since heading south of the border in 1986.

It was United who started like a steam train. A one two from Cantona and Denis Irwin, down the left hand side, opened up the pitch for the full back who spotted the run of fellow Irishman, Roy Keane. A defence splitting pass sent Keane one on one with Tony Cotton, who rushed out and smothered Keane’s early effort.

City grew into the game. United were sloppy in possession and were gifting City the ball in dangerous areas. A run from deep by Mike Sheron, had opened up United’s defence. He drifted towards the corner of the 18 yard box before switching a lovely weighted cross over Paul Parker’s head and onto the barnet of the towering Niall Quinn. Quinn nodded the cross back across the goal and into the far botton corner. Schmeichel was rooted to the spot, either wrong footed or thinking the effort was going to drift wide. It didn’t. 1-0

United were reeling. Like a boxer trying to get to the corner after a punch on the chin. The Maine Road crowd were up and cheering, a real atmosphere. Moments later and a short corner by City was played to ex Liverpool hard man, Steve McMahon, who took one touch on the corner of the box and clipped in a delightful cross, again nodded in by Niall Quinn, Gary Pallister, unable to get to Quinn first, was left to pick the ball out of Schmeichel’s net. The Dane had come to claim the cross, except Quinn’s head had just got there a split second before. 2-0 to City.

The half time whistle was blown and Maine Road erupted. Just three seasons earlier, City had demolished United, 5-1 at Home. Supporters of the Red Devils must have feared the worst.

Early into the second half and United had started like they had started the first. Crisp short passing in which City had no answer. United were probing for an opening, and on the hour were given a life line. Tony Coton’s goal kick was nodded back by Steve Bruce, just inside United’s half, and City’s defender, Vonk, decided he was going to flick his header backwards to his keeper, but little did he know, Eric Cantona had lazily been making his way back from an offside position, lazy or touch of genius? Cantona was in on goal one on one with Coton, but unlike Keane in the first half, despatched a low drive into the far bottom corner. 2-1.

Now with their proverbial tails up, United were on the front foot again. City were struggling to get out of their own half. United were like a sledgehammer, smashing into the wall which was Manchester City. Inevitably, there was a breakthrough. Roy Keane with the ball down by the right touch line, plays a beautiful ball along the floor into the channel for the road runner like, Andrei Kanchelskis to get on the end of. He picked up the ball in his stride with ease and glided into the City box for United’s third one on one of the day! Coton, again saving at the feet of the Russian.

The game was beginning to get stretched. City, got a second wind and when Niall Quinn picked up the ball deep in United’s half, he had the freedom of half of Manchester. Roaming forward with real purpose, Quinn drew out Steve Bruce, before sliding a ball down the side of him into the path of David White. White took one touch to control and fired a shot into the on rushing Schmeichel. The Great Dane keeping his United side in the hunt.

A break from United down City’s left, saw Roy Keane cross the ball into the box, only for City to clear. The ball fell to Cantona, around 40 yards from goal. Cantona took the ball on his chest, flicked it up on his knee and then played a one two with Mark Hughes. Hughes played a ball out wide right to Ryan Giggs whose first time cross flew across the six yard box to the enigmatic Frenchman, who had continued his run into the area, to poke him the equaliser. Cue delirious away support. United had clawed back a point in the derby.

That was until the last three minutes. Under Sir Alex Ferguson, United would go on to win games by sheer will. A never say die attitude. Players were instructed to play to the very last whistle at all times. City looked dead on their feet. Paul Ince, picking the ball up on the centre circle, plays a ball into the feet of Lee Sharpe. Now Sharpe’s facing his own goal so you would expect him to set it back to Ince or someone else, not Sharpie. A delightful back heel into the path of the marauding left full back, Denis Irwin, is met with an equally exquisite first time cross by the Irishman. Mark Hughes, ploughing towards the front post, just misses the header, inches away from the winner, but Hughes had also cleaned out City defender Kernaghan. The ball flashed across the goal and in came Roy Keane, United’s summer signing, prodding the ball home on the half volley to silence the crowd, well the City fans anyway. 2-3

Sir Alex would finally break his Manchester derby duck. The resilience shown for United would lead them in good stead for a season in which they would go on to win a domestic double of Premier League and FA cup.

Manchester is RED.

Manchester City: Coton, Edghill, Curle, Phelan, McMahon, Kernaghan, White, Sheron, Quinn, Flitcroft,Vonk – subs Lomas(unused), Griffiths(unused), Dibble(unused)

Manchester United: Schmeichel, Parker, Irwin, Bruce, Pallister, Cantona, Ince, Keane, Hughes, Kanchelskis Sharpe – subs Giggs(76), Robson(unused), Sealey(unused)

About the Author

John McNicoll
Southern Red and Football enthusiast.